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A Conversation with Senior Andrew Martin

By Jawad Beg

Game Program, February 5, 2005

Tell us about growing up in Plano, Texas.

Well, Plano is, I guess when I try to explain it to people from up here, it's a very convenient place. There are strip malls everywhere and the towns down there are very modern. Very rarely do you see anything ten years old, building-wise. It's a very modern, big city. Going to high school - we had to split up the high schools into high schools and senior high schools which were freshmen and sophomores and then juniors and seniors. Senior high schools were like two thousand kids. The school I was in was actually split off from the main one so, I only had one thousand kids in my graduating class. It was a pretty good time. Everyone down there is really nice and laid back. A good atmosphere, I'd say.

Your role model in life?

I'd have to say my parents. They work really hard and have taught me a lot - not just about hockey, but about life. They have guided me on the path I am on now.

Some of your hobbies growing up?

Hmmm, street hockey was the first thing I got into before all the other sports. I tried baseball, basketball, football and all that stuff. I had some interest, but I wasn't really passionate about any of them. Street hockey was pretty fun so I started doing that. Aside from that I did what any other kids would do... video games or going to movies with my friends.

Was street hockey the biggest thing in your town?

It started getting big. Plano is the headquarters for a lot of companies. Lots of people move there from northern states like New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota. So people came down and a couple of people knew about ice hockey and ice hockey was a very unknown sport [down there] but lots of neighborhoods had cul-de-sacs so guys would set up a goal and we'd all get together to play street hockey.

How did you initially get into street hockey?

Actually, I pretty much liked it right away once I went to a [Dallas] Stars game. It was amazing how fast the game was and how physical it was. It was all in this confined area and I thought it was an awesome sport to watch. So I started to get into hockey and I hated playing goalie. <laughs> All I wanted to do was score so it's pretty funny how things ended up. It was something I did with my friends and brothers whenever there was spare time. It's very flat in Texas and the weather is good all year round. So, street hockey... nothing stopped us really.

Could you describe your first experiences playing?

See when I first started playing organized was probably when one of my friend's dad was putting together a team for roller hockey. It was in a roller rink at the time and it was this big wooden surface so I remember having roller blades and I tried to play forward. I attempted to, at least. I wasn't very fast. I thought I had a good shot but I spent too much time in the penalty box. <laughs> Eventually I moved from forward to a defenseman. What ended up happening was that the first team I was on the goaltender wasn't doing well in school so his mom pulled him off the team. So we rotated each of the players through playing goalie. When I started to play [goalie] Ididn't have the best attitude but it turned out that the coaches were actually stunned that I came out of nowhere so, they started putting me back there against my will. I started to bribe coaches saying that if they let me play center for one period I'd play goaltender for two. I'd switch in-between periods and eventually people were trying to get me on their team as a goaltender. So I decided to stick with it and I'm glad I did.

How difficult was the transition from roller hockey to ice hockey.

I actually didn't start playing ice hockey until my freshman year in high school. So I've only been playing about seven full years. For me I felt that the transition was made a lot easier for goaltenders as opposed to a lot of players who still had to get used to stopping and starting. In roller hockey you can't slide sideways. Through that, your legs develop a bit differently because you almost have to jump across. It's a lot more reaction and reaching. Once I moved that over to the ice hockey game I could definitely reach but my movement at first was a little off because I still had to get the sliding down. But once you get used to moving laterally it becomes so much easier. I think the puck was actually a little lighter in roller hockey so the puck came faster. I felt that [roller hockey] was a good preparation for ice hockey.

What was the catalyst that made you make that transition from roller hockey to ice hockey?

It was a high school hockey league that started up when I was in eighth grade. There were only four teams in the Dallas area and I thought that was the coolest thing because at that time I was playing eighth grade football and I wasn't really standing out so I figured, 'Oh, that would be a good sport to get into because there's not a lot of people playing it.' So I could play on a team and be important. And I thought what better way than to join a high school team. The school system I was in... they didn't take freshmen to play on their varsity team so I ended up getting a scholarship to a Jesuit private school in Dallas which was one of the original four teams. I was one of two goalies that tried out so I automatically made the team. The next thing you know the starter goes out of town during the playoffs and I get thrown in there and I ended up winning the MVP and we won city and state. So, after that, I was definitely hooked.

How did Fairfield University take an interest in you?

The way I got into Fairfield was that I went to Hockey Night in Boston after my junior year in high school. From that point on I was playing Midget-A and high school hockey, which was pretty much all that was available for me at the time. I didn't want to move away and play juniors just because I didn't think it was a reality at that point.

That season we were one of the best teams in the conference. My numbers were probably the second best among the 60 goaltenders there. Fairfield was very interested and I walked in their office and remembered thinking that, 'Hey this is Division I hockey so they're probably going to tell me that I need more development and say thanks for being interested.' I sat down with the coach and he said he saw me play and had a gut feeling that I had talent. He wanted to build the team from the goal out. At 17, I was not expecting anything like that.

Could you describe your experiences at Fairfield?

I'd say the biggest thing to face was the adversity of being 18 and being surrounded by a bunch of 21-year old freshmen who played juniors for a couple of years. It was pretty much a culture shock - hanging out with all the older kids. Though, the older kids were your classmates. I actually think the person that gave me the hardest time was Cody (Wojdyla) joking about me coming from a pee-wee hockey tournament. Freshman year I learned a lot. There was more to the game than just stop the puck - especially in off-ice conditioning. At that point in time, I don't think I knew what it was.

We had a rough season and I wasn't playing much and there were times where I could have transferred out and played juniors. But, I stuck with it and my sophomore year I was in great shape and ended up being the starting goaltender midway through the year.

Describe the day when the coach called you in to give the team the news of Fairfield cutting funds to its hockey program.

It actually started off as a bad day for me. My car ran out of gas on the way to the rink. So we got to the rink and they called us off the ice early. They said we had to meet people on campus. At the time, we knew that they were going to cut the football program. They were talking about that openly. We thought they were going to make hockey one of the two main sports. We weren't sure if we were going to get a new rink to play at because that was something that was also talked about. So, we were thinking that it was going to be really good or really bad to have to bring in the whole team.

I remember them sitting us down and saying, 'Sorry to bring it to you but along with football we needed to cut more money so we decided to drop hockey.' At the time it kind of hit you and you're thinking it can't be real. I remember guys being in disbelief and being upset at the school. They felt that they brought them there to stab in the back and leave them. It was a mixed reaction. Some people were so bitter towards the school after that point. It was a tough day and I remember my parents telling me on the phone, 'Every cloud has a silver lining. Things happen for a reason. You don't know what's going to come of this. It could be the best thing that happens to you.'

Could you describe how RPI approached you?

It was actually pretty funny because at the time I was looking online with schools that were graduating goaltenders and I remember looking through mostly schools in the ECAC and Hockey East because they were schools close to Fairfield. I remember looking at RPI's website and they had two juniors and a sophomore so I didn't really bother contacting the coach. I had a couple of offers from other schools in Atlantic Hockey and the CHA. There were some Hockey East schools willing to take me in as a second string or back-up goaltender. I walked into the office one day and the coach gave me a paper that said Dan Fridgen, RPI, and he said they were interested in me because they were having issues the year before.

I liked Coach Fridgen from the first phone call. He was a funny guy with a great sense of humor and very straightforward. They were also talking to Cody at the same time and he was two doors down from me, and we talked about RPI a lot. We came here and took a look and we loved the campus and atmosphere. Guys on the time were great and we were pretty much sold on the day.

Could you describe your first season with RPI?

I was 20-years old and coming in as a junior and there were freshmen coming in who were as old as me or older. It was almost like what it probably would have been like starting college hockey after juniors. Having Cody being my roommate and coming from Fairfield, at least you knew somebody. Most of the guys were very accepting. I remember [Scott] Basiuk coming the first week and hanging out at our apartment. We were kind of blown away by how the guys were reaching out to us and making us feel like part of the team. Now it seems like I've been here all four years with how close I am with the guys. It would have been tough if they weren't very accepting and you had to go in as an outsider but that wasn't the case at all. We are so fortunate to have had these experiences.

Could you describe your relationship with the goaltenders from last year (Nathan Marsters and Kevin Kurk)?

I thought we had a pretty good relationship. Coming in as a transfer can sometimes be threatening to goalies, but last year Nate was playing great and you knew he was going to be in net. I wanted to take that as a learning experience because they said he had a rough season the year before. Just watching him develop through the year was pretty amazing. I got to see him build his confidence up and evolve during the season. For me, having an older goaltender that sat next to me in the locker room... it was great to bounce stuff off of him and hear about what he thought of the game. They were great guys and I miss them.

Who are the goaltenders that inspire you?

Definitely Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils), Nikolai Khabibulin (Tampa Bay Lightning), and Marty Turco (Dallas Stars). They're not fully butterfly goaltenders but they make the acrobatic saves. They play big in the big games. That's how I try to play myself... just be the goaltender that can shut teams down and come out big when they're needed.