Matt Martin revels in his longevity as an Islander
Matt Martin, just over a month away from his 33rd birthday, nodded his head toward 22-year-old teammate Noah Dobson.
“You remember being the young guy in the locker room and then, quickly, you’re one of the old guys,” Martin said before the Islanders concluded a home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets on Thursday night at UBS Arena.
The longtime fan favorite played in his 669th game as an Islander, matching John Tavares for 11th place on the team’s all-time list. Martin played in his 800th career game on Tuesday night as the Islanders held on for a 4-3 win in Columbus.
Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier is the franchise’s all-time leader with 1,123 regular-season games in an Islanders’ sweater. Martin’s teammate, Josh Bailey, is third as he played in his 976th game with the Islanders on Thursday.
But Martin should soon surpass Hall of Famer Billy Smith’s 674 games and move into the Islanders’ top 10.
“It’s special,” said Martin, originally from Windsor, Ontario. “Long Island has become my home. We wanted to start our family here. It’s a place that’s very special with me, to give me my first opportunity. I was fortunate enough after my stint in Toronto (2016-18) to get the opportunity to come back. A lot of guys when they end up on a different team, don’t ever get that opportunity again.
“Over the last few years, we’ve had some pretty cool runs and a lot of great memories. It’s a great thing and I love being here and I love being a part of this team. Hopefully, I can be here for years to come.”
Martin is in the second season of a four-year, $6 million deal. He will have the opportunity to pass Brent Sutter (694 games), Patrick Flatley (712) and Hall of Famer Mike Bossy (752) on the Islanders’ all-time list next season.
Of course, future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara, who extended his NHL record for defensemen by playing in his 1,665th game on Thursday, was quick to put Martin’s 800th game in perspective.
“He told me I was halfway home the other day,” Martin said. “That’s a scary thought.
“It’s been a great ride. This is what I dreamed of doing as a kid and to be able to fulfill that is pretty awesome.”
Martin and Chara have developed a good relationship as teammates but have fought three times as opponents. In all, Martin’s fight against the Bruins’ Nick Foligno in Saturday’s 6-3 loss in Boston was the 97th of his career, per hockeyfights.com. A television graphic indicated it was Martin’s 98th fight.
Either way, it’s a lot.
“My brother actually sent it to me,” Martin said. “I guess when you’re around long enough you end up having that many fights. Pretty crazy. I was talking to my dad after the game. He’s like, ‘Is that right?’ I was, ‘I guess so.’ Fighting isn’t as prominent as it used to be. When I first came in the league, I’d probably fight 15 times a year. It’s way down now. They definitely accumulate pretty quickly.”
Martin has fought five times this season and his career high, per hockeyfights.com, is 15 in 2011-12.
He found it hard to pinpoint his most memorable battle.
“You get into so many,” Martin said. “Back in the day you’d kind of know who you’d end up fighting on any given day. I’ve had some really good ones over the years and some that haven’t gone so well for me, too. You tend to remember those ones a little more because you felt them a little more.”