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Road to the Coliseum: Marty Reasoner

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Marty Reasoner literally grew up skating in a hockey house. As a child, Reasoner would take time from skating on the family’s backyard rink in Honeoye Falls, NY to skate around on the family’s dining room floor.

His father, Marty Sr., who was a goalie for the Rochester Institute of Technology and a high school hockey coach, exposed Marty Jr. to the game at an early age. The exposure, combined with long, cold Northeastern winters provided the ideal conditions to breed a future NHLer.

“It was just growing up where we did,” Reasoner said. “Our dad built us a rink in the backyard and everybody from the neighborhood would get together after school and play. It was always a fun thing that we did ever since I could remember.”

He played for local clubs growing up, but to pursue a serious future in hockey, Reasoner had to move away from home at the early age of sixteen. The options for him were either the Ontario Hockey League in Canada, the United States Hockey League, or a New England prep school. Reasoner chose Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. and was an offensive force at the school, scoring 109 points (52goals, 57assits) in 48 games over two years.

Marty Reasoner jumps the boards to skate against the Boston Bruins at the Webster Bank Arena on October 1, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
His outstanding play at Deerfield earned him an invitation to play for the US Junior National Team, which was an eye opening experience for Reasoner.

“That was the first time you get to compare yourself to everybody in the country,” Reasoner said. “When you think you are pretty good for your town or your area…it’s a good measuring stick. That was the first time I had an idea that nothing was guaranteed.”

Reasoner would contribute four points in six games to the 1997 American squad leaving the World Junior Hockey Championship with a silver medal.

The next season, Reasoner found early success at Boston College as a freshman and was starting to believe that he had what it took to make the big leagues. That year he scored over a point per game, netting 45 points in 34 games to earn the NCAA Hockey East Rookie of the Year award. Reasoner scored at the same pace during his second season before exploding offensively (73 points in 42 games) in his junior year.

“I just matured; got bigger and stronger and I got to play with some good players,” Reasoner said. “I was playing with Brian Gionta that year when he was a freshman. We had a lot of chemistry and did pretty well so I think that made a difference.”

Boston College went all the way to the NCAA finals, but lost to Michigan in what Reasoner would call a bittersweet year. The NCAA recognized his season by naming him to the 1997-98 All-American team, but he wouldn’t be able to avenge the loss.

The St. Louis Blues drafted Reasoner with the 14th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and he made the Blues roster at the onset of the 1998-99 season.

In St. Louis, Reasoner “hit a bit of a wall,” and retooled his game to play at the professional level. He split time over the next three seasons with the Blues and their AHL affiliate, the Worcester Ice Cats.

“I was a different player then, or expected to be a different player,” Reasoner said. “I thought I was supposed to be producing offensively and I did it in spurts. I learned a lot as a player and a person, how to deal with adversity and deal with a little bit of disappointment, but it was a learning experience.”

Reasoner was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2001, as part of the deal that sent Doug Weight to St. Louis. In Edmonton, Reasoner had to refine his game again to fit in with Head Coach Craig MacTavish’s style of play. He said the first year was difficult and that it was like trying to survive, but he was able to learn on the job and that its paid off in the long run.

“In the end, it’s made me a more well rounded player and it has kept me around, so I’m still kicking,” he said. “It’s a weird thing; you come into the league as one thing and leave as something else.”

Marty Reasoner skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 30, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Reasoner spent the majority of his next six NHL seasons playing for Edmonton, and was traded at the deadline to Boston during the 2005-06 season, missing the Oilers Stanley Cup run. Following that season, he signed a two-year deal to return to Edmonton.

In 2008, Reasoner left the hockey-crazy city of Edmonton for a non-traditional market in Atlanta. For someone who had spent so much time in an established hockey town, it was a culture shock playing in front of empty seats.

“It was obviously a new experience for me,” Reasoner said. “You learn how to be a professional. Every night you have to show up regardless of who’s in the stands.”

Show up every night he did. In two seasons in Atlanta, he only missed three games. The following season (2010-11) he appeared in all 82 games with the Florida Panthers. There, Reasoner developed a role as a vocal leader on the young Panthers squad, becoming an assistant captain.

“(I was) learning to take charge and I was given a lot more opportunity there last year. I was able to score and play in some different situations and have a little bit of success offensively.”

He posted a career-year in Florida, scoring 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) before being signed by the Islanders during free agency this summer.  His role in the NHL has been to: kill penalties, shut down the oppositions top players, take important face-offs, block shots and still contributed offensively. Playing hard every night and setting a good example are two defining characteristics of his game.

Reasoner said, “It’s kind of like trying to mesh all those things together here and help these young guys and help this team get going in the right direction.”       

Reasoner traded in warm southern winters to come back to New York. Skating at the Coliseum, he is a lot closer to home, but he’s come a long way from those dining room floors.
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