For the last four years, the Cardiff Devils have been one of the greatest teams in UK hockey, and while a lot of that can be down to the new ownership consortium that have helped turned the EIHL’s only Welsh teams fortunes around, one man in particular has played a huge part in that success.
No, I’m not talking about Andrew Lord who deserves his own dedicated post somewhere for his contributions on and off the ice, We’re talking about Joey Martin.
Since Martin joined the Cardiff Devils, he’s always been in the talk around if he’s one of the best in the EIHL, or whether or not he is the best in the league.
His stats speak for themselves, since making his debut for the Devils in 2014-15, nobody has more points in the EIHL than Martin with 261 in regular season competition.
In 2014-15 he was named to the first of four straight EIHL All-Star First Teams, and has gone on to be named Forward of the year three years straight from 2015-16, won the Challenge Cup twice, league title twice and also helped guide the Devils to their first EIHL Playoff title this past season.
So, Martin deserves to be in the conversation one day about if he was the greatest player to ever grace the EIHL, he’s certainly the best around right now. Even Dave Simms agreed on social media recently.
But in terms of Devils, is he the greatest ever?
If you ask Devils fans, and management they’ll tell you a straight up yes and quite rightly so.
There have been a lot of players over the years who deserve to be in the conversation, but arguably none have been more instrumental in the continued success of the team like Joey Martin.
Martin has never know a year without a trophy in South Wales. In year one it was the Challenge Cup, year two was the Erhrardt Conference trophy, year three was the League, Conference and Challenge Cup and then this past season it was again the League and Conference but also the teams first ever playoff title.
Every year Martin has lead the team in scoring and has been at least top 10 in the league in every year other than year three when his 53 points were good enough for 11th.
Martin has been one of the most consistent performers at the EIHL level ever, and his influence in key games that help the Devils to trophy after trophy cannot be understated.
If you look at the likes of Steve Moria, John Lawless, Doug McEwen and the massive list of other great Devils players, they all have their own right to be considered the greatest ever Devil, but for me there’s more than just stats and trophies that make Joey Martin the leading candidate for the role.
What Martin and the Devils have done over the past four years is revive an entire organisation. Yes the money from the new owners helps, but it’s the product on the ice that drove so many fans back to the rink.
Attendance was such a huge issue in the final year of the previous ownership and rightly so, why would you pay to watch that.
It was truly difficult to watch, it was horrendous but four years ago it all changed.
What the Devils have done over the last few years, and what Martin has helped do over the last few years is revive a fanbase that was starting to abandon the team. They struggled to pack the Big Blue Tent or even pack it half the way, now they’ve moved to an even bigger venue that from my own personal experience, is hard to get a seat in.
Martin has been the best player on the team ever since, and yes the Devils could still have similar success without him, but he’s been so influential on the ice with his play.
Sure there were trophies for some of the other big name Devils players, but they didn’t have to really fight through the adversity that Martin and the Devils have done over the past four seasons.
Take Steve Moria for example, he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest Devils ever and also one of the greatest players to have ever played in the UK, he joined an already strong team.
It was the same for Doug McEwen when he joined in 1989, the Devils had won the league the year before and he went on to a long an illustrious career in the UK.
With Martin however, he joined a team that had just suffered one of their worst in franchise history. The only year the team suffered a worse record was in 2001-02 with a team made of almost entirely British players they finished 12th with just 5 wins all year.
In 2013-14, not that Devils fans want reminding, the team missed the postseason for the first time in the EIHL era, with only the now defunct Edinburgh Capitals finishing below them. It was an absolute disaster of a year.
After that year with a new ownership group, the team led by player-coach Andrew Lord steered the ship the correct way, and they brought in a young former AHL forward Joey Martin, who has gone on to become the greatest Devil of all-time.
Featured Image – Oliver Hampson