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A Quiet Influence: Radek Martinek

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
By the time the post-game five-minute marker hits and the New York Islanders locker room doors are opened to the swarm of media, one player who tends to fly under the media's radar is defenseman Radek Martinek. The 34-year-old, who has spent his entire nine-year professional career on Long Island (was drafted by the Isles in 1999), is really just a man of few words.

“That’s who I am,” Martinek said. “I’m not going to stand up and yell at anybody. So I have to show (my leadership) a different way.”

He may be quiet, but he’s an experienced blueliner that brings not only his veteran leadership, but a calming presence to the Islanders lineup every game.

Radek Martinek #24 of the New York Islanders celebrates a third period goal by teammate Jack Hillen #38 (not shown) against Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on January 23, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“Not everyone has to be screaming and yelling in the dressing room or on the ice,” Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina said. “He’s a quiet guy. He’s definitely a leader out there on the ice, in the weight room and in the locker-room.”

In 40 games this season, Martinek has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time, tying Travis Hamonic for the second most minutes by an Islanders defenseman, and has posted six points (one goal and five assists).

A big part of the Havlicko Brod, Czech Republic native’s game is what he brings to the penalty kill. Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano has always preached sticks in passing lanes and bodies in shooting lanes. Martinek did just that when he blocked a Zdeno Chara slap shot on Dec. 9.

“He’s a guy that can play a lot of minutes for us, play in a lot of situations, especially on the penalty kill,” Capuano said. “He hasn’t been used too much on the power play, but that could change in the future. Overall, his skating and his hockey sense, he’s not one of those guys that’s going to be a ‘rah-rah’ guy by any means, but he does lead by example.”

Of active Islanders, Martinek has recorded the second-most blocked shots (72). And when asked about Martinek’s willingness to use his body, Capuano plainly said, “It’s courage.”

“He’s not afraid to sacrifice his body,” Capuano continued. “He pays the price. He’s got a great will to be coached and a will to help his teammates win games. You can go back to the (Zdeno) Chara shot in Boston, taking that one, so he’s just a gutsy guy.”

And if you remember back to the first period of the Islanders-Bruins matchup at TD Garden, Martinek initially left the ice after the Chara slap shot hit him in the wrist, but came back out and completed the rest of the game. Afterwards, the defenseman was sidelined for just two games before returning to the lineup for the next three. Despite his toughness, he ultimately sat out for nine more games with the same wrist injury.

That determination to help the team, even through injury, says a lot about the type of player Martinek has become. His defensive partner, Jack Hillen, has been on the team for a few years now, but he still has a lot of respect for Martinek and has comfort in knowing that he’ll be on the ice.

“He’s like a comforting presence back there because he’s just so solid and you know what you’re going to get from him every night,” Hillen said.

Radek Martinek #24 of the New York Islanders looks to pass during an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Nassau Coliseum on January 26, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Hillen continued to talk about his relationship with Martinek and said that their defensive pairing has really come full circle. After Hillen completed his senior year at Colorado College, he played two games with the Islanders – and his first-ever professional defensive partner was Martinek.

“I really like Marti,” Hillen said. “He’s a really nice guy. Quiet, but he’s always sound positionally and he skates really well. I think we compliment each other pretty well. He likes to stay back and play solid D and he lets me jump up in the play. He’s just a good skater, a solid teammate and a nice guy to be around.”

Hillen was right. Jurcina, who is also Eastern European, shares a lot of the same cultural tendencies and they speak the same language, making them great road roommates.

“All our jokes are very similar,” Jurcina said. “It’s nice to have a guy like that on your team.”

But he added, “He’s so quiet. He never freaks out on the ice or on the bench. He’s calm. If anything happens he just sits down and takes a deep breath. That’s one of those leadership qualities.”

Martinek may be the guy that’s seldom interviewed for television or radio, but he’s an extremely important part of the Islanders defensive core.
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