For Walleye rookie Joey Martin waiting all day for the puck to drop for a night game can be the hardest part of pro hockey.
Martin won’t have that problem Wednesday morning when Toledo plays its annual School Celebration Day game at the Huntington Center. Faceoff is set for 10:30 a.m. to the delight of nearly 7,000 young students from schools across the area.
“This will be a little different,” said Martin, a 23-year-old forward. “But I don’t mind it much. You wake up and you get ready for a game. Sometimes you don’t like to wait around all day to play.”
Martin said he never played before noon during his four-year career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He said the Walleye practice at 10 a.m. nearly every day so the morning game against the Chicago Express will simply be integrated into the team’s structured routine.
“Having a game at 10:30 is just like waking up for practice. There will be no excuses,” Martin said. “We’re at home and anytime you are at home, it is an advantage.”
ON THE HOOK
Jersey Number: 14
Ht./Wt.: 5-10, 185
Born: July 29, 1988
Favorite sport other than hockey: Lacrosse. I played growing up and it's something my relatives played. My grandfather [Ted Howe] is in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Hockey players seem to play a lot of lacrosse.
Favorite food: Steak, potatoes, and asparagus
Favorite beverage: Cool blue Gatorade
Best fast food: Subway
Favorite Movie: Good Fellas
Favorite TV Show: Entourage
Person you most admire: Parents, Cathy and John
If you could meet an athlete, dead or alive, who would it be? Steve Yzerman
Favorite place you've been to? Muskoka in Northern Ontario. There's a lake there and a lot of Canadian NHL players have summer cottages there.
How have you adjusted from college to pro hockey? The biggest thing is all the free time after practice. This is our job now. So I try to take care of myself. I work out in the afternoon and I prepare my own meals so that I eat better.
What else do you do with your free time? We've explored the restaurants in the area. We go to Star Diner for breakfast. I'm happy there is a Tim Horton's on the way to the rink. I'm Canadian, so I love the coffee there.
What's your hockey superstition? I have too many to name. To say one, I have to have a pregame nap. But never over an hour. If it's over an hour I feel too tired.
Have you ever eaten Walleye? No. I can't recall eating it. But I do like seafood.
Something nobody knows about you: I have a have hidden talent for badminton. I won championships in elementary school.
Walleye officials expect to set a new record for the organization’s morning event. The attendance will surpass last season’s crowd of 6,033 which provided a raucous and noisy atmosphere.
The largest group to attend the game will be from Tecumseh Middle School in Michigan, which is bringing 290 students. The longest distance a school will travel is from Ridgedale Elementary in Morral, Ohio which is just north of Marion and 93 miles from downtown Toledo.
The organization has giveaways, contests, and other activities to keep the youngsters involved in the game. It is similar to events the Mud Hens baseball team hosts each summer, which draw average crowds of about 8,800.
“We hope we can provide some entertainment for the kids,” Martin said.
The team undoubtedly also hopes to get its third win of the season after returning from a road trip down south that ended in one win and two losses. The Walleye (2-5-0) faced the proposition of going winless and getting zero points out of three games when they trailed Gwinnett 2-0 in the third period on Sunday. The team also had gone five consecutive periods without a goal.
The Walleye erupted for four goals in a span of less than five minutes, including the tying marker by Martin. It was Martin’s first goal as a pro and made it 2-2 with 11:04 left. Captain Kyle Rogers scored the game winner and Toledo took a pivotal 5-2 victory.
“Down 2-0 in the third period, we showed good character and it was a great comeback,” Martin said.
It was the forward’s first points since he chalked up an assist in the season opener on Oct. 15.
“It was a big relief,” said Martin, who scored 39 goals in his college career.
“I was getting a little frustrated. But I was getting chances and sooner or later those pucks will go in. Anytime you score to help the team win it’s great.”
Toledo had dropped three straight and could have fallen 10 points out of first place in the ECHL North Division less than a month into the season.
“Winning that last game made the trip back a lot easier,” Martin said of the 13-hour bus ride from Georgia. “It was really big for our team. It’s tough looking up in the standings. We’re all sick of it. Guys were pretty sour. We have a lot of great players in the room. It’s just a matter of putting it together. The last one was one of our best.”
The team now plays eight of its next 10 games in November at the Huntington Center.
“We’re hoping it’s a stepping stone,” Martin said. “Playing in front of the home crowd will be good. We have to take advantage of it and get back in the standings.”
For Wednesday’s morning game, tickets are $10 after 11 a.m. Toledo next hosts Gwinnett on Friday and Saturday night.
RAISING AWARENESS: Martin is one of three Walleye players who are participating in a campaign to increase awareness of prostate cancer in a unique way.
Martin along with goalie Carter Hutton and forward Paul Zanette will grow mustaches for the month of November as part of a campaign called “Movember.”
The event encourages men to grow mustaches during the month to raise funds for programs that support prostate cancer research.
Donations can be made to the players or the team at the online donation page at us.movember.com/mospace /1768546.
Updated photos of the players’ mustaches are also available.
The Walleye will be matching the donations that are generated by the players. The trio has already garnered $465 in donations.
“Carter approached me about it and I thought it was a great cause,” Martin said. “But I needed a head start because I can’t grow one very well so I started growing mine before the beginning of November. On my Twitter page [@JoeyMartin14] I’ll have updated pictures of my mustache every four days.”
FISH TALES: Toledo finished this past week with a 1-2-0 record, losing 4-3 to Greenville and 1-0 to South Carolina. The Walleye are eight points behind first-place Kalamazoo. ... F Rob Flick had two goals on the road trip and G Carter Hutton went 1-1-0 with a 2.51 goals against average. F Evan Rankin had a goal and two assists, while Gleason Fournier and Adam Estoclet each scored their first pro goals in the loss to Greenville. ... G Thomas McCollum, who turned aside 34 of the 35 shots in the loss at South Carolina, was called up to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Monday. McCollum, 21, currently ranks 15th in the ECHL with a 2.57 GAA. ... F Nick Oslund signed a professional tryout with Grand Rapids on Monday. Oslund, 23, was a seventh-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2006 draft. He has one assist in six games with the Walleye. ... C David Gilbert was called up to Rockford of the AHL on Tuesday. Gilbert has played in seven games with the Walleye and ranks second in scoring with six points (1 G, 5 A). ... D Phil Rauch, a St. Francis de Sales graduate, scored his second goal of the season Sunday in Gwinnett. Rauch scored one goal in 132 games at Canisius College. ... Toledo set season highs with five goals and 44 shots on Sunday. ... Chicago is 5-3-0, second place in the North Division.
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade