Kalamazoo Wings goalie Joel Martin credits family, coaches, teammates for breaking 30-year-old franchise win record

Author: Patrick Nothaft, mlive.com
Date: Jan 10, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI - Kalamazoo Wings goaltender Joel Martin has played for 17 different teams in his 17 seasons of professional hockey, and now his name will be inscribed in the K-Wings record books for years to come.

Martin broke a 30-year-old franchise record with his 197th win as a member of the K-Wings in the team's 5-2 victory over the Brampton Beast on Jan. 6.

The 34-year-old net minder stopped 41 shots in the win, which put Martin ahead of Georges Gagnon, who tallied 196 wins in eight seasons with the K-Wings from 1979 to 1987.

"It's a record that stood for 30 years, so I'm pretty humbled and proud to be mentioned in the same sentence as someone like Georges Gagnon, who is still a legend around here with hockey fans," Martin said. "It means I've had some pretty good teammates, been a part of some pretty good teams and had some pretty good coaches.

"It means I've been able to be a part of this great organization and play in front of our great fans for a long time, and it means I've had an awesome support system at home from my wife Caroline."

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Martin began his professional hockey career in 2000 with the Alberta, Canada-based Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League. He spent the next three seasons playing for seven teams, before a two-year stint in Kalamazoo that included a Colonial Cup-winning campaign in 2006.

That two-year run endeared him to K-Wings fans, as he tallied a 53-20-5 record and allowed 2.20 goals per game.

Current K-Wings coach Nick Bootland was Martin's teammate during the team's championship season and saw the potential for a lengthy professional hockey career.

"I always knew that he'd work hard and be reasonably conditioned, but now he treats it like the NHL," Bootland said. "He's always working on his craft 24-7.

"He's always breaking down film to see every second that he's handling the puck to get better, and he's created his own way to make sure that he's evaluating constantly."

Martin joined the AHL's Cleveland Barons following his Colonial Cup-winning season, then returned to Kalamazoo in 2008 for a one-year stay. Eight of his 17 season have come with the K-Wings, and it took him 353 games to reach the record.

"He's like a fine wine; he just gets better with age," Bootland said. "He's constantly looking to improve himself and he's playing outstanding this year.

"He gives us a chance to win every single game no matter how our team plays. For us to have a leader like that in the room, he could arguably be the captain of our team because of what a professional he is."

"When young goalies come into the league, they see the work ethic from a 34-year-old guy who's basically playing AA hockey, and they see that he's for real, and that it's something they all can do."

Gagnon, who has made Kalamazoo his home after retiring from hockey in 1987, knows what it means to hold the franchise record and appreciates what Martin has endured to reach the milestone.

"To not be king of the hill anymore is a little sad, but records are meant to be broken," Gagnon said. "Joel's been here for a while, and by all accounts, he's a great person. It's a true testimony to his focus, his ability to stay healthy, this determination and will to win."

Martin currently holds a 10-9-2 season mark, and each additional win makes it more likely his name will remain in the K-Wings record book for decades to come. If he had it his way, Martin's name would share the space with the hundreds of people who have helped the veteran goalie throughout his 17-year career.

"Even though this record has my name on it, it's made up of so many names - literally hundreds - from all the family, teammates, coaches, trainers, doctors and fans that have had a part in every win," Martin said. "So to them, thank you."

 

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