Every weekend during the Michigan hockey season, thousands of young fans pile into Yost Ice Arena to watch their heroes compete. Some dream of becoming a Wolverine one day, and for a select few, their dream comes true.
That”s how it happened for Michigan freshman and Ann Arbor native Nick Martens. The defenseman, who grew up on the east side of town, had been coming to watch the Wolverines with his family since the early 1990″s, when they began buying season tickets.
For Martens, choosing Michigan was a no-brainer.
“Growing up, every kid in Ann Arbor that played hockey dreamed about playing at Yost on this team,” Martens said. “Whenever my amateur team wasn”t traveling on a Friday or Saturday night, I was here.”
As a fan, Martens attended some of the most important games in Michigan”s history. He was at Yost for the NCAA West Regional in 1997-98 when Michigan defeated defending champion North Dakota, 4-3, to advance to the Frozen Four. But that is not a game that stands out in his memory.
“I remember the old rule they used to have,” Martens said. “When the team scored 10 or more goals in a game, you could get a free pizza the next day with your ticket stub. I loved those games.
“Back in those days, I was looking forward to pizza every three or four weeks.”
Martens doesn”t watch the team from the stands anymore, but his love for food, especially pizza, still remains.
“He”s got weird eating habits,” said fellow freshman Milan Gajic, who rooms with Martens this year. “He”ll eat anything and everything, and it won”t be a full meal at once. It”ll be bits of this and bits of that kind of like a rabbit.
“He loves pizza. All we ever eat is Cottage Inn.”
After the completion of his junior year in high school, Martens left Ann Arbor and went down South for two years to play with the Texas Tornado. In his first year, he played hockey while finishing high school. The next year he took off school, and focused on hockey.
“I had a couple odd jobs that year, but most of the time I spent training,” Martens said. “I made my final decision to come here last Christmas.”
With eight defenseman currently suiting up for Michigan this season, Martens has had to fight for a consistent spot in the lineup. While he still hasn”t locked anything up, he has skated in 17 games, recording a plus-three rating.
“We knew about him when we were looking for a defenseman,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We needed someone who could fit in and get a chance to play, and he fit the bill. Based on all the competition we have on defense this season, I”m impressed that he”s played in so many games.”
Martens feels that even though he is not playing all the time, the increased competition is a good thing for him.
“If I was playing every game, it wouldn”t be as self-building for me,” Martens said. “I try and do what I can. If it”s not being in the lineup, than it”s working hard to help other guys get better.
“Hopefully I can keep in the lineup though.”
Cammalleri update: Michigan junior forward Mike Cammalleri, who has been sidelined since Jan. 12 with mono, received good news from the doctor yesterday.
Michigan”s leading goal scorer (without playing in 12 of its games) has received clearance to begin light workouts, which include riding an exercise bike and hopefully skating by the end of this week.
Berenson said that the best-case scenario for Cammalleri”s return is on Feb. 22-23 against Ohio State at Yost.
Let”s hit the road: Bus transportation will be available for Saturday night”s game against Michigan State, which will be played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The bus will leave Crisler Arena at 5:45 p.m. and return immediately following the game.
The price for a round trip on the bus is $6. To reserve a spot, call the Michigan Athletic Marketing Department at (734) 615-2025.