December 01, 2008

Pit Martin Dies In Snowmobile Accident

From The Canadian Press:

Quebec provincial police say Hubert (Pit) Martin, a four-time NHL all-star in the 1960s and '70s, has died after his snowmobile plunged into an icy lake.

A small but speedy NHLer for parts of 17 seasons, Pit Martin was a fine player who was overshadowed by the player he was traded for.

On May 15, 1967 Pit, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte left Boston for Chicago in exchange for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history. The Bruins went on to become a two-time Stanley Cup championships while the Hawks had quiet glimpses of success. Moreover, the trade was broken down more into Martin for Esposito - one promising center for another. Espo went on to a Hall of Fame career including 4 Art Ross scoring championships. Martin, while an effective player for Chicago for over 10 years, had a quiet career in comparison.

Hubert Martin, nicknamed Pit after a popular French comic strip character, broke into the NHL in 1961 after leading his junior team, the Hamilton Red Wings, to the Memorial Cup championship. He split his first five professional campaigns between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Hornets of the American Hockey League. For a period of time in 1963-64, he found a home on a line with Larry Jeffrey and Bruce MacGregor, replacing Newfoundland's Alex Faulkner.

The powerful and agile skater was traded from the Red Wings to the Boston Bruins midway through the 1965-66 season, where he spent a season and a half. Pit then moved to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1967 where he played another 11 years. He eventually won over Chicago fans with is speedy attack and insistent digging for loose pucks in the corners.

Martin welcomed the trade to Chicago. The Bruins were wallowing in the NHL basement, whereas Chicago had been an underrated league power in the 1960s. History would show that roles would be reversed soon after the trade. Esposito's huge success put a lot of pressure on Martin. Martin didn't make relations with Chicago fans any easier when he held out for the first 17 days of his first Chicago training camp. After missing the playoffs in 1968-69, Martin was quoted in The Hockey News criticizing Hawks players and management.

Martin was able to overcome his rocky reception and become a Hawks fan favorite. He found particular success on the MPH Line with Jim Pappin and Dennis Hull for the better part of six seasons.

"We, as a trio, worked very well together. We all got along. I think the biggest thing was that none of us were selfish. We had the same type of philosophy about the game. We were serious about it and we wanted to be recognized as good hockey players. We didn't care who scored the goals as long as our line produced," said Martin.

Martin enjoyed several good seasons in Chicago. Eight times in his career he scored at least 20 goals, and three times at least 30. His best season came in 1972-73 when he scored 29 goals and 61 assists for a career high 90 points. Later in the playoffs he scored 10 goals and 16 points to help the Chicago Blackhawks advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

The Quebec native finished off his pro career with two seasons in Vancouver. Pit retired from the NHL with 324 goals, 485 assists and 809 points in 1,101 regular season games while adding 27 goals and 58 points in 100 playoff contests.

While his career was not nearly as decorated as the man he was traded for, Martin was fiercely proud of his 1970 Masterton trophy award for dedication to the game of hockey. Martin called it "the most important trophy I'll ever receive."

After retiring, Martin initially did some broadcasting for Hockey Night In Canada before settling in Windsor, Ontario. The avid recreational pilot ventured into several business opportunities, including a restaurant and a swimming pool servicing outfit.

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