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A pair of Oilers defencemen shares unique bond

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
“A lot of guys make fun of us because we are always together.”

It’s quite a thing watching Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat on the ice at the same time. The two defencemen have a unique chemistry. It’s something Head Coach Dallas Eakins noticed right away.

“They’re very similar, they seem to like playing with each other, they play very similar games. But I do know they like playing with each other, you can see it right away in practice,” Eakins said.

Martin Gernat (right) picks the puck off the boards in a game with Oklahoma City. Photo by Steven Christy/Oklahoma City Barons

Gernat is 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds. Marincin is 6-4, 203. Both are from Kosice, Slovakia. They are like two peas in a pod.

“That’s just luck probably,” Gernat said. “But we are the same size, same everything… It’s nice to have someone around from the same country, and who speaks the same language.”

It’s no wonder that Marincin, 22, and Gernat, 21, get along so well.

“We are good good friends,” Marincin said. “It’s the same as other guys like Swedish guys and Finnish guys. It’s good for me when Marty is here because we can talk together and it’s great.”

The two Martins from Slovakia met in 2011, after Gernat was taken in the fifth round (122nd overall) of that year's draft. Things just clicked.

“The first time I met him was in Development Camp in 2011. The friendship started there and now I think we are good buddies and we have all the chemistry, all the friendship is growing and that’s nice,” Gernat said.

Gernat leaned on Marincin through his first professional season last year. The former Edmonton Oil King went on to play for Oklahoma City in the American Hockey League, a place where Marincin has played 100 regular season and 17 playoff games.

Martin Marincin (right) skates with the puck against Ottawa. Photo by Getty Images.

“When I moved to Oklahoma, he helped me there because he knew the city, he knew the people there. That was easier for me. I’m one step behind him always so he’s like a little father for me,” Gernat chuckled.

Just one year his senior, Marincin is a veteran presence for Gernat. Marincin has two full professional seasons under his belt, playing 44 games with the Oilers last year. He’s proven he can play at the NHL level, which is what Gernat is aspiring to do.

“He’s a skilled guy,” Marincin said of Gernat. “He likes to go with the forwards. Same like me, he’s an offensive defenceman and he’s good on the power play.”

The duo will be paired together in Saskatoon, SK on Sunday for the Oilers pre-season game against the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s something they enjoy doing, as they can communicate in their native tongue on the ice.

“We talk every time in Slovakian. Some guys tell us, ‘English, English.’ But we (like) the Slovakian language,” Marincin said.

Teammates may not understand the two when they get to yapping in Slovakian, but they make it a point to speak English when possible.

“If he is back and he is passing to me, I am always yelling our language,” Gernat said. “But if I know there is someone else coming from the forwards then we speak English so they know what we’re doing.”

The two youthful blueliners are in a battle in training camp to solidify spots in the organization. They help each other as much as possible and their chemistry makes for a good pairing.

“Those are two guys that are firmly in fights for spots too and hopefully they can help each other along the way,” Eakins said. “When you’re playing D, you need your partner. It’s always interesting because they are fighting for the same spot.”

Competition aside, the two will skate together on Sunday. When Martin squared is on the ice, listen close. You may just learn some Slovakian.

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