By Nate Tenopir, Senior Staff Writer
One of the unique aspects of hockey is the role of the captain. For generations, wearing a “C” on the sweater has been synonymous with the game.
Many other sports include team captains that may rotate from game to game, or be consistent throughout the season. This is most often seen in pro football and baseball where the designation has been added to game jerseys within the last few years.
Yet, no other sport puts as much expectation, responsibility or iconic representation on their team captain as hockey does. This may be because hockey teams only establish one captain and it’s usually their best player.
However, understanding the role of a hockey captain is much more than finding the best player on the team and stitching a “C” on his sweater. Many titles go along with being captain: leader, mentor, communicator, role-model, motivator, etc.
For UNO, the guy that takes on all those responsibilities is senior centerman Joey Martin.
As captain of the Mavs, Martin is expected not only to produce on the ice, but to be a consistent source of leadership in every situation. Regardless of what role he may have played in the outcome of the game, Martin is at nearly every press conference speaking on behalf of his team.
Situations like Saturday’s loss to Alabama – Huntsville truly test the mettle of the Mavs’ lead player. Whether he’d prefer to have to talk about it or not, the time immediately after such a disheartening game is crucial to the success of the team.
But what do you say at a time like that?
“You can’t go in and beat a dead horse,” Martin said. “Obviously everyone was down in the locker room. You just have to find any positives if there were any. That night we got a lot of scoring chances, we just didn’t capitalize. We just have to reiterate that this time of year we gotta really bear down on our chances and capitalize.”
Martin came to UNO from Thorold, Ontario. Before the Mavs, Martin excelled in his junior career with the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.
A year before coming to Omaha, Martin posted 67 regular season points, 28 in the playoffs, and helped his team win the 2007 Royal Bank Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship.
From the time he stepped onto the ice with the Mavs, Martin was having an impact. As a freshman he compiled 18 points to lead all UNO freshmen, added 24 more as a sophomore and 26 as a junior.
In his career, he has played in 139 Maverick hockey games, amassed 95 points and achieved a plus/minus rating of plus-8. Yet, it was Martin’s off-season leadership that may have been most valuable to the Mavs this summer.
“Obviously it was an honor,” Martin said about being chosen team captain. “I kind of took initiative on some of the events that happened this summer when our team stayed here. I knew I was a senior, it was my last year here and I wanted to step into that leadership role and it just kind of happened from there.”
In that leadership role Martin draws from all the interactions he’s had with former team captains to form his leadership style.
“I’ve been playing hockey for a while and I just kind of learned off of previous captains,” Martin said. “I think the best kind of leadership is the one that leads by example. Not only does he talk, but he backs it up. That’s kind of what I learned.”
Since the beginning of the year, Martin has been backing it up with his play and his conduct as a leader. He is the team’s leading scorer with 27 points, is tops in plus/minus rating at plus-13 and is tied with fellow senior Eric Olimb for the team lead in assists.
In the 26 games that UNO has played, Joey Martin has been on the scoring sheet for 15 of them. Not surprisingly, the Mavs have lost eight of the 11 games in which Martin has failed to record a point.
Though he’s among the team leaders in almost every category, it’s the work that doesn’t get counted in the statistics that shows how Martin sets the example. He does a lot in both zones, finding his teammates for scoring chances on offense, and getting back to help out and clean up his own end on defense.
Martin prides his game on hustle, which is exactly what he would like to be remembered for.
“I’d just like to be known as a hard-working guy who’s very passionate about the sport. That’s really pretty much it.”
His responsibilities may be numerous and never-ending, but Martin says being part of such an outstanding group of guys makes his job that much more enjoyable.
“These guys are pretty responsible,” Martin said. “It really makes my job a lot easier. We got a lot of different guys that speak up at different times. Our assistant captains Matt Ambroz and Rich [Purslow], they say the right things. It’s all about saying the right things when needed; you don’t wanna talk too much.”
With only 10 regular season games, conference playoffs and hopefully the NCAA tournament remaining, Martin tries to make the most out of every minute at UNO.
“It’s definitely hitting home that my career is coming to an end so I just wanna make the best of it and kind of soak it all in,” he said. “I’ve been hanging around the locker room a little bit longer because I know I don’t have much time there. I really love this place and I enjoy it and I don’t really wanna leave, so I wanna make this season last as long as possible.”
When asked how he would make a recruiting pitch, or what he would say to players considering coming to play for Dean Blais and UNO, the senior captain knew what he’d say right away.
“I think the most evident thing is our coaching staff,” Martin said. “We have such a great coaching staff; they’re all very intelligent guys. Our facilities are great; we get treated real well. It’s just a great program top to bottom.”