Childhood dream comes true as Spencer Martin makes NHL debut with Colorado

Author: Herb Garbutt,
Date: Jan 27, 2017

He admits now that he may have been a little overconfident, but from the time he started playing hockey, Spencer Martin was sure he was going to play in the NHL.

Of course, when you’re four years old watching Curtis Joseph on TV, you really have no idea what it takes to get there.

“He’s been talking about playing in the NHL since he was in kindergarten,” said his mom Karen. “He never had a backup plan, which drove some of his teachers crazy. He was a good student but his goal was always to play in the NHL.”

It didn’t take the young goalie long to realize it would take a lot of hard work, but he never shied away from it.

Karen and Allan Martin knew the odds were slim, but they also saw their son’s passion for the game. If he wasn’t playing hockey, he was playing road hockey. If he wasn’t playing road hockey, he was playing mini sticks. If it wasn’t mini sticks, it was Xbox, hockey of course.

“We didn’t want to squash his dream,” his mom said.

Last Friday, Spencer Martin called his parents to let them know that the dream he held on to for 17 years was coming true. He would be starting for the Colorado Avalanche in San Jose.

He immediately began calling airlines and making arrangements to get his family to the game.

“My family has been so supportive,” Martin said. “They’ve done everything they could to make (playing in the NHL) a possibility.”

Saturday, Karen and Allan Martin, their daughter Allison, Martin’s grandparents and his girlfriend Alex woke up a 3 a.m. to make their way to San Jose, flying through Chicago to San Francisco and then driving to San Jose. A friend and former minor hockey teammate living in California joined the family in San Jose for Martin’s big day.

On the biggest night of his hockey career, Spencer Martin couldn’t help but feel disappointed. As a goalie, the job description is pretty simple — just win.

Colorado’s third-round pick in the 2013 draft had done everything he could to make that happen. He had stopped 25 of 27 shots through three periods, getting the Colorado Avalanche into overtime tied 2-2.

But not every NHL debut gets the Disney ending. Just over a minute into the extra period, Logan Couture skated to the right faceoff circle and fired a shot. Martin threw out his left arm and got a piece of the puck to send it wide, however, the Sharks’ David Schlemko, taking advantage of an Avs line change, beat his man to the net and was there to tuck the puck into the net and give the Sharks a 3-2 win.

“In the moment, it’s never a good feeling to get scored on in overtime. We were so close to winning but it’s three-on-three so anything can happen,” said Martin, who finished the night with 27 saves. “But when you take a step back later, you think, ‘That went pretty well.’”

Colorado had lost nine of 10 when it rolled into San Jose. To make matters worse, the Avs’ top two defencemen, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, were sidelined with injuries. So picking up a point on the road against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks was a victory, even if it didn’t feel like it.

Martin said three previous stints with the team serving as the backup helped him get comfortable to his surroundings.

“I thought playing my first game I would be really nervous and amped up, but as soon as the game started, I just started thinking about normal stuff, just sort of zoned out and played my game,” the 21-year-old said. “You try to enjoy it because it’s a big accomplishment, but you still have to try to not get too caught up in the moment. I just tried to play the way I have in the American (Hockey) League.”

That’s a wise move considering his performance with the San Antonio Rampage. He was named to the AHL all-star team, but he’ll miss Monday’s game for a good reason — he’ll still be with Colorado.

Colorado announced Thursday that goalie Semyon Varlamov is out for the season. What that means for Martin remains to be seen.
“I’m not taking too much for granted,” he said. “Things change quickly.”

Nobody knows that better than Martin. Just two years ago, he was rehabbing after knee surgery to repair a torn ACL that brought his final season with the Ontario Hockey League's Mississauga Steelheads to an abrupt end.

He returned strong that fall, recording a shutout in his pro debut with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Comets. After splitting the season between Fort Wayne and San Antonio, he established himself as a starter in the AHL this season, going 15-9-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

He’s been recalled by the Avs several times as Varlamov battled with a groin injury but didn’t see his first game action until Saturday.

“Sometimes you have to catch a break. ” Martin said.

And sometimes you just have to believe that one day you’ll make it.

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