East Meadow, NY– On February 9, 2010, a 20-year-old Matt Martin made his NHL debut for the New York Islanders, picking up his first pair of points in a win over the Nashville Predators at Nassau Coliseum.
Fast forward 13 years later, through hundreds of penalty minutes and thousands of hits, Martin is still here at 34, preparing for the 900th game of his NHL career when the Islanders take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight at UBS Arena.
Aside from his first, other games stick out in Martin’s mind, such as the Islanders’ outdoor battle with the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and the organization’s return to the Coliseum from Barclays Center in 2018.
While he has fond memories throughout his career, Martin keeps his sights set on the present task at hand.
“Whether it be good games or bad games, just focus day to day on what you need to,” Martin said. “Nine hundred is obviously a big number and achievement, but a couple of days later, hopefully, I’ll play in 901, so it’s not something that I’m too focused on at the end of the day.”
Even though Martin himself isn’t giving a lot of thought to the personal milestone, his head coach believes that reaching 900 career games is a testament to the steadiness he brings to the Islanders’ lineup.
“It says to me you know your job, and you go out, and you do your job,” Lane Lambert said. “There’s a reason he’s been in his role for a long time. He plays it well, and he’s a smart hockey player.”
Of course, that role is based on physicality but lies deeply in Martin’s character.
“When you see a guy every day, you find out what type of quality and character he has,” Lambert said. “[Martin] is second to none.”
Given Martin’s physical play style, achieving a milestone rooted in longevity is all the more impressive. With 3,708 career hits, Martin ranks second all-time in the NHL, behind only his Islanders teammate Cal Clutterbuck.
Martin, Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas have long been a staple for the Islanders as the team’s inseparable fourth line. Although, they did experience a brief hiatus when Martin went to Toronto, where he played in 132 games for the Maple Leafs from 2016-2018.
But soon enough, Martin’s journey led him back to the Islanders to find most of the corps he left behind was still intact.
“It’s not often that guys leave an organization and then get the opportunity to come back,” Martin said. “Not only to come back but to come back to a lot of the same group of guys and the same two linemates. It felt like home here.”
It’s been with the Islanders that Martin has accomplished much of what he’s done in hockey and in life as well.
“I’m certainly appreciative of it all,” Martin said. “I’m very blessed and grateful for not only the opportunity to play in the NHL but for how long I’ve been with this team. I got married here and settled my life down here. I have two kids that are going to grow up in this community. I’m surrounded by things I appreciate, and being able to do what I’ve done in New York has brought all those things to fruition.”