It hasn't been a banner year for Radek Martinek by the offensive or defensive metrics -- though he's been one of the healthiest Islanders this year, which is both a surprise and a possible factor, as he's been out there for the team's toughest, most injury-plagued stretches of the season. He's a pending UFA who might not be back, but for the last decade he's been an Islander through thick and thin (and cast, and walking boot, and sling).
*Alright, also: Because he's Czech. Represent**, ja.
**One side of my family is Czech, and Martinek's Czech Extraliga career was played with my father's hometown team, which once (pre-Martinek) wore the fantastic Soviet-influenced uni pictured here. And as far as Czech players go, I like mine with more Martinek and less Holik. So yeah, lots of heritage and demeanor bias here.
Running this site forces me to be a little more analytical and (try) to be more detached than the rest of my hockey-watching life. As a frequently injured (though not this year) UFA who will be 35 next year, Martinek and the Isles face an offseason decision that will require that sort of detachment on management's part. (Although, I still have to imagine Martinek would be a cheap and reliable re-signing compared to market rates for his replacement. His age is the bigger factor to me.)
Seeing Martinek in his element -- humble, heavy accented, gentlemanly deflecting credit from The Maven after blasting a slapshot goal over one of the best goalies in the world -- reminds me of the surge of joy you can have when you throw analytical detachment out the window for a moment, and let nothing but fan emotions and memories take over.
Not in the clip above was this quote in Newsday [sub.], on Martinek jumping in after Marian Gaborik boarded Frans Nielsen from behind:
“I didn’t see the hit, but I just saw [Nielsen] down, not moving, and I got scared,” Martinek said. “That’s why I went over. He’s such a nice guy. I’d do anything for him.”
Straight from the heart.
I planned this brief post even before I read some of the LHH reader sentiments about Martinek after last night's game, but those comments remind me I'm not alone here. It's a business, it requires cold decisions in a league setup that encourages parity. I honestly hope he's back. But whatever happens this summer, I'll never forget Radek Martinek and all he's done wearing that sweater.