Andrew Martens will always have a big place in the history of the Ontario Reign. On October 11, 2008, he scored the team’s first two goals in a preseason game against the Bakersfield Condors. He scored the Reign’s first regular-season goal in Bakersfield seven days later.
Not surprisingly, Karl Taylor wasn’t the only one aware of Martens’ potential as a high-scoring defenseman. When Martens signed with the Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder last week, it marked the culmination of a lengthy pursuit by Kevin McClelland, who has coached in the Central Hockey League since the 2005-06 season.
“He’s been after me quite a bit,” Martens said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Minnesota. “Over the last couple years, just asking if I wanted to play for him. This year was no exception. He must think that there’s something for me that he likes.”
This time, Martens felt like it was the right fit.
Among the main reasons, he said, was the opportunity to serve as a player/coach. Martens wasn’t sure if the title was official or even if he’ll wear a letter on his jersey – something he never did in Ontario. But since he is considering becoming a coach once his playing career is over, Martens liked the job description that McClelland offered.
“I get a little more face time with the coach, and am able to throw an idea here or there,” he said. “I can observe a guy who’s been Coach of the Year before. He’s got I don’t know how many Stanley Cup rings [four]. If I ever decided to get into coaching, I’ve seen different coaches, a couple coaches that have been successful. This is another person who can help me along the way if I ever do decide to get into coaching.”
Martens certainly hasn’t abandoned his ambition to return to the American Hockey League as a player, and is aware that joining the lower-profile CHL is a risk. More than 90 percent of players promoted to the AHL come directly from the ECHL.
“It could be a detriment to my success or a boost,” he said. “Only time will tell. We’ll play it by ear.”
So why take the risk? In addition to gaining valuable training as a coach Martens confessed that his season, and that of the Reign, were both factors. Both he and the team had down years by their respective standards, and Martens said it was the first time in his career that he missed the playoffs.
“It was nice playing for Karl and alongside all those guys, but it was just a time in my life where I needed a change,” Martens said. “Hopefully this is the right move.”