The New York Islanders and their fans welcomed Matt Martin back to New York in a game that was both chippy and heartfelt.
Since the start of the New York Islanders season, there’s been a few Matt Martin moments. You know the ones, moments during a game when yourself find myself saying, “wow, we’re missing Matty Marts right now.”
Usually it’s when the team needs to be woken up, which has happened too much in such a short span of time so far this season. No moment, though, was more clear than when one of the Arizona Coyotes gargantuan forwards was roughing up Casey Cizikas a couple weeks ago.
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And okay most guys who aren’t Nathan Gerbe or Tyler Johnson are gargantuan next to Cizikas. That’s beside the point, because Zeeker was getting tussled and there was no Martin to step in and put that business down.
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Remember Mark Fraser? Because I do, and no one messed with Cizikas on Martin’s watch without recourse.
In comments to Newsday yesterday, the Martin we all know and love reaffirmed why we have those feelings. His support of his old team (though not at the expense of his new team) remained mostly in tact right down to his donning a Cizikas jersey should the Isles still be in it and the Leafs out.
It made it feel even more wrong to see him in Toronto away whites clearing out his new net during warmups. His spot, still, helmet on and hair gone for all Maple Leaf protocol.
His opening shift at the start of the game he came body to body with Johnny Boychuk. He later gave Anthony Beauvillier a little welcome to the NHL Matt Martin special and added a little ‘stay down’ shove to the kid’s head.
He caused trouble, drew a power play for his team, and did Matt Martin things.
The Islanders honored him with a small video tribute, a Natalie Merchant thank you, and the fans stood for him. And deservedly so.
We all move forward and the missing will fade to something a little duller. There’s still a touch of pride, though, when hearing our guy – because whatever, he’ll always be ours – getting the endorsement of someone as respected Mike Babcock.