Kalamazoo Wings netminder Joel Martin is no stranger to success.
Take a look at the goaltender section of the ECHL Record Book, and Martin’s name is repeatedly among the company of ECHL Hall of Fame Members and League legends.
Most 30-or-more win seasons by a goaltender in his career? There’s Martin, sitting atop the record book with his three 30+ win seasons in 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Most minutes played by a Goaltender in a Season? Martin holds the top two distinctions for this ECHL record; 3,777 in 2015-16 and 3,739 in 2012-13.
Martin donned the K-Wings jersey for the first time during the 2004-05 season, spending two seasons with the team while they were members of the UHL. He came back for one season in the IHL in 2008-09, before returning to the ECHL K-Wings in 2012-13, playing there since, except for a brief stint with the AHL Iowa Wild. Having spent eight of his 14 professional hockey seasons with the Kalamazoo Wings, the team, and community, has become more than just a place to play hockey, for Martin and his family.
“We put down some roots here, bought a house, our second son was born here last year. So we love this community. The community, the fans, the organization have been so good to us the entire time that we’ve been here. It’s hard to imagine that I ever left….but I’m really happy that I was able to come back and continue to be a part of this community.”
Supported by Martin’s 41 saves, the K-Wings defeated the Brampton Beast 5-2 on January 6th. The win was Martin’s 197th in a Wings uniform, and secured his spot as the franchise’s winningest goaltender, breaking a 30 year old record previously held by Georges Gagnon.
“To be able to reach a milestone in a Wings jersey means everything. It’s definitely been the organization that’s been most dear to my heart”
Another ECHL milestone is on the horizon for Martin, who heads into the weekend with 172 career ECHL wins. Kalamazoo hosts Wheeling on Friday and travels to Toledo to face the league-leading Walleye on Saturday. With one win, Martin would tie Jason Saal for fourth on the ECHL’s all-time wins list for a goaltender. Two wins secures fourth place solely as his own, behind, in order, ECHL Hall of Famers Nick Vitucci, Marc Magliarditi and Daniel Berthiaume. The latter was inducted in the ECHL Hall of Fame in February 2016 in Kalamazoo as part of the 2016 CCM/ECHL Hockey Heritage Week.
“It’s really just an honor to be anywhere close to those guys, especially someone like Daniel. I followed him when I was young when he was playing in the NHL. To meet him last year was really special and he had a couple conversations with me….so I really appreciate that. It’s really cool to be in their company and it’s really humbling.”
Martin, who has played professionally for 14 years, has been able to see the type of consistent success over his career that others would dream of.
“It hasn’t always been the easiest journey, but I’ve had so many good people involved in my life from my family and friends to my teammates and coaches that have given me opportunities and this organization. I guess the biggest thing is to take a minute and look back at all of that and just realize how special it is”
The Fort Worth, Texas native makes it sound so simple when asked about the keys to performing at such a high level.
“I think it’s about trying to get better every day if you want to play professionally and you want to stay playing professionally. Being surrounded by good people (also helps) – if you’re surrounded by good people, then good things are going to happen.”
The K-Wings franchise leader in wins, and soon-to-be fourth place all time in ECHL history for wins, has an exciting weekend ahead as the Wings will honor him prior to tonight’s game vs. Wheeling, but he stays focused on the task at hand.
“It’s an honor that they are taking the time before the game to do something like this for me, but when it comes down to it and that’s over and the puck drops, then my focus has to be on my job.”
If Martin takes his own advice and continues to get better every day, it certainly won’t be long until we see him in the ECHL record book again.