In Alec Martinez’s first game as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, he played for just over 16 minutes and had two shots on goal. That Oct. 3, 2009 game against the Phoenix Coyotes didn’t go as planned – the Kings lost 6-3 – but it changed everything for the young defenseman.
“It was a good feeling, but I knew that there was a lot of work ahead of me and there still is,” Martinez said. “It really was a dream come true.”
Nearly three years later, Martinez has settled into the team and into his position as a key part of a strong group of defensemen on the roster.
Even so, he doesn’t take anything for granted.
“It’s awesome to be a part of this organization,” Martinez said.
Martinez is a successful professional athlete, but school is still important to him. The 25-year-old is completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Miami University of Ohio. He turned pro after attending school for three years, but completing his degree remains a goal.
“I’m essentially done with my degree but I just need hours now so I’m about a semester away, maybe a little longer than that. I’ll just keep chipping away online,” said the 6-1, 206-pound native of Rochester Hills, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit).
The Detroit metropolitan area is a hotbed for hockey. He started skating when he was 3 years old and playing organized hockey by the time he was 5 years old. Although Martinez also played baseball and soccer, he was “mainly a hockey kid.”
Growing up, he followed the Red Wings and occasionally made the trek across the border to Canada to visit a cousin who played hockey.
“That’s kind of how I started,” he said. “I would go visit him when I was younger and I’d see him play and I wanted to try.”
Today Martinez has adjusted to life in Los Angeles. Off the ice, he uses his downtime to play some of his favorite songs on the guitar, by artists such as Eric Church and Gary Allen.
“I’ve always wanted to play or at least try it,” he said. “I’m a big fan of country music, so there’s a lot of country songs that are three chord songs that are pretty good for beginners.”
With hockey and homework, he has a limited amount of time to learn more complicated songs.
“I’m probably going to try and start taking lessons,” he said. “I’m kind of at that point where I need some pointers, so we’ll see how it goes. But, like I said—I’m a big fan of country music, so if I could play a few of those (more complicated songs), that would be pretty cool.”
For a kid who grew up watching hockey, playing in the NHL has always been his dream. Instead of just watching Nicklas Lidstrom on television, Martinez was able to play against him.
“You’re playing against, or playing with, some of the best players in the world,” Martinez said. “You can count on them to be in the right position at the right time. Guys are older, stronger, and faster, so there’s a bit of a transition there, but once you’re thrown into it, you just kind of naturally adapt to it and you make decisions quicker.”
Prepping on game day means a pre-game nap, a meal of chicken and pasta, and sometimes a coffee on the way to the rink. Martinez isn’t a superstitious athlete, but he keeps his routine the same. He tapes his sticks and then gets dressed the same way every time.
“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “There’s no reason to change it. I’d say other than preparing for the game a certain way I don’t really do anything crazy.”
Martinez’s dream to play professional hockey led him here, but he knows he couldn’t do it without the help of the Kings organization.
“They did a good job of working with me on the little things because that’s really what makes the difference between some of the great players and some of the good players – just doing the little things right all the time – it translates into big plays and big differences in games.”