When a speeding puck flies from the blueline and smashes into your face, it might be hard to find a series of positive events in the aftermath or reconstructive surgery. Yet, for Alec Martinez, it’s pretty much a perfect storm of good luck that has him back playing again.
Back home in Texas, where he makes his off-season home, he’s found a professional team just minutes away. He’s also pretty familiar with one of their players and they have a favorable home schedule in January.
All positives, for sure, but there was something else bubbling below the surface.
“If something happens with these CBA talks, whenever that does happen, I want to be ready,” Martinez shared with MayorsManor by phone. “I just didn’t want to fly all the way back to Finland and then if something happened in the next few days, then I’d have to fly all the way back.”
To get the ball rolling in the right direction, some of the credit should be given to one one of his college teammates, Nino Musitelli. The Allen Americans forward was one of a handful of sparks that ignited the fire leading to Martinez signing a contract in the Central Hockey League earlier this week.
“Once I got back home, I started re-evaluating different places I could skate around here,” said Martinez. “Obviously this was one was a pretty easy answer since it’s five minutes from my house. I talked to Nino a little bit and another one of my college roommates is in the league too. So, when he was in town, we went to dinner and then I went to a game to see what it was all about.”
And so began the process.
But, if you recall some of his recent comments on the MayorsManor show last month, you know that one of the reasons Martinez returned to the U.S. is that he was having some challenges even practicing with TPS Turku – where he had originally signed during the lockout.
“Once I got back I realized that I tried to push it too hard when I was in Finland,” the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion explained. “So, I took some time off from going on the ice when I first was home. Then, I went to back running and working out. It was tough because this is a process and I think I was a little antsy to get back into things. I didn’t set myself back, but there were things – like if I started working out really quickly and pretty hard, I’d have some problems with swelling and pressure inside my head.”
While processing his next move, things started to become more clear for the 25-year old defenseman.
“Eventually I got to the point where I needed to start skating again and then this opportunity came up. I think you recover the best in an environment that you feel comfortable in too,” said Martinez. “So, there were too many things to ignore it. There’s a lot of good angles to the situation that worked out well for me (and) I just needed to get on the ice and start playing again.”
On New Year’s Eve he did just that, wearing #28 for the Americans in a 4-0 win over the Quad City Mallards.
“It was my first game in about seven weeks,” said Martinez. “I just went out there and wanted to play my own game. Coming off an injury and not skating for that long, it’s a little tough and I was rusty. My passes were a little bit off. But, you don’t necessarily change your mindset. I didn’t want to try to be too conservative or something like that. I think if you play not to get hurt, that’s usually when you get hurt.”
He went on to praise the coaching staff and the guys in the locker room for helping him on his journey back to normalcy – well, a slightly modified version of normalcy.
“They did a good job with me,” Martinez remarked. They knew it had been a while since I played. So, they didn’t play me an outrageous number of minutes or anything. They kind of eased me in there.”
Coming off the injury, did any unfamiliar thoughts start to creep into his head on game day?
“I guess I didn’t go into the game with any other mentality than my normal,” he said while reflecting on the experience. “But, I guess I was somewhat conservative, in terms of, I kept my shifts short. Maybe I didn’t jump up into the rush as much as I normally do, just to ease myself into it. My legs didn’t feel that great. So, I was just looking to get back into game shape – but, trying to help the team win at the same time.”
Through it all, he’s tried to keep his sense of humor about things as well.
When reminded of his ‘struggles’ to score in Finland (something we discussed previously here), he laughed and said, “Yeah, I rung two off the bar on Monday. I hit two posts and all the guys were giving me a hard time just to get a shot on goal.”
So, back to the lockout and wanting to be ready if the NHL and NHLPA reach a deal soon…
Given the injury and all the other factors in recovery, how quickly could he be ready for real NHL action?
“I’m ready to go and I’ve been cleared by the doctors,” Martinez emphatically stated. “The bone is fully healed and it’s just a matter of getting my skating legs back.”
Showing the warrior spirit of a hockey player, Martinez continued to drive the point home that he’ll be ready as soon as he gets the call that NHL camps are set to open.
“If it were the playoffs or something like that, I probably could have played a long time ago. But, at this stage, with everything that’s going on with the lockout, there’s just no reason to really push it. So, I’ve tried to take it slowly. The doctors have all told me it’s a process. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to go right now!”
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