Gophers men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko held a video conference call with media members Tuesday, and the subject of Minnesota’s glory days of back-to-back NCAA championships in 2002 and ’03 came up. The 2002 team had a defensive corps that featured Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold, sophomore standout Paul Martin and freshman phenom Keith Ballard.
“That first year with Leopold, Martin and Ballard, that was something to be around,” Motzko said.
Motzko and his Gophers will get a taste of that this season because Martin is joining the staff as undergraduate assistant coach. The Elk River native, collegiate All-America and 14-year NHL player will assist the Gophers on and off the ice while finishing his bachelor’s degree as part of the Gopher Grad program.
Motzko is excited to have Martin, 39, tutor a defensive group that features high-end sophomores Ryan Johnson and Jackson LaCombe, plus freshmen Brock Faber, Mike Koster and Carl Fish.
“He’s just got a cool, cool demeanor about him that’s really going to rub off on our players,” Motzko said of Martin, “and with he and Rabs [assistant coach Garrett Raboin, a former St. Cloud State defenseman] putting their hands on that young ‘D’ corps, there’s some magic there.”
Motzko, whose team began individual skills instruction sessions on Monday, said Martin is expected to join the team next week after COVID-19 testing.
Martin retired in 2018 after a 14-year NHL career that saw him score 50 goals and assist on 270 over 870 regular-season games with New Jersey, Pittsburgh and San Jose.
Now, he’ll be back on campus, and Motzko couldn’t be happier.
“He made a promise with his mother that he’d go back and get his degree. He can get it done in a year,” Motzko said. “ … You can best be assured that came with open arms.’’