Boys' High School Hockey

Belmont's Martin hits 700 wins

Ken Martin Belmont Hill's boys ice hockey team celebrates coach Ken Martin's (left, blue coat) 700th win. (Courtesy of Belmont Hill)
By Jake Seiner
Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2011

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Years ago, as Ken Martin approached the 500th win of his already historic high school hockey coaching career, he was struck by the level of support he found in the Belmont Hill community.

Martin is not a numbers and records guy — “I’m no one to count those kinds of things,’’ he said. But the Belmont Hill community was abuzz with excitement. After Martin picked up win No. 499, one parent purchased a sheet cake in anticipation of No. 500.

“Somebody had the cake in their trunk for two weeks because we kept losing,’’ Martin said. “They kept the cake, and it was a little stale, to say the least.’’

Martin won his 699th game Jan. 29, putting him one win away from becoming the first coach in Massachusetts to win 700. This time, the coach and his players didn’t waste time, knocking off Phillips Andover, 7-1, Friday in Martin’s first shot at the milestone.

The coach entered the 2010-11 season with 688 wins — seven shy of the all-time state record, set by Martin’s longtime friend, former Arlington High coach Ed Burns.

The Belmont Hill family has spent the whole year anticipating Martin’s 700th win — so much so that nobody realized Martin was closing in on Burns’s record. Martin passed his friend and mentor in late December. The coach had absolutely no idea.

It wasn’t until early last week that a Belmont Hill employee made the discovery, and in turn passed the news on to Martin’s son, Ken Martin IV.

The notice made last week a celebratory one, especially after the win Friday against Phillips.

“The one thing is it kind of links the first team I had with the team I have right now, and all the ones in between,’’ Martin said. “They all contributed to the 700th. This group gets the chance to make it 700, but it wouldn’t have happened without good players before now.’’

Among those former players is Martin’s son, an 11th-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 1990. Belmont Hill hockey has been a Martin family tradition for as long as there has been a Belmont Hill. Ken Martin Jr. was a member of the school’s first graduating class in 1927. He played hockey and later coached, although Ken III doesn’t think his dad ever coached at the varsity level.

Ken III, a 1965 graduate, took over coaching duties in 1972 and has run the program since. Under his direction, 17 Belmont Hill skaters have been selected in the NHL draft out of high school.

“He’s really demanding but in a good way,’’ co-captain and Holy Cross-bound senior Mike McNamara said. “He’s always trying to get everyone to their full potential. Kids might think they’re not going to be great players, but he pushes players to their full potential.

“He really coaches like a college coach, and really prepares you day-in, day-out for, Division 3 or Division 1, what it’s going to be like.’’

“He has an old-time style of coaching,’’ fellow co-captain Brandon McNally said. “I mean, it was 7-1 [against Phillips], and he’s still yelling over a penalty.’’

As the clock ticked away the final minutes of Belmont Hill’s win over Phillips, the buzz among Martin’s players and coaches grew. It wasn’t until the last second had ticked away that Martin finally put away the stoic demeanor, taking in congratulatory hugs from his players and staff.

“Other people were talking about it,’’ Martin said about the game’s final minutes. “As far as I was concerned, it was about making sure we were playing well.’’

The line about keeping his players at the top of their game is a familiar refrain with Martin. Ask him about the record, what it means for him, for the program, and he’ll inevitably come up with the same line: “We’re just trying to get the best out of our kids.’’

For that reason, Belmont Hill’s two-game win streak was every bit as important as win No. 700 in the coach’s eyes. Martin didn’t hesitate to partake in the postgame festivities, but left he planning to everyone else, as was the case when his players surprised him with a banner commemorating the win after the game.

“They didn’t have a cake this time,’’ Martin said. “The banner was probably the only thing that wouldn’t get stale.’’

Wright game Saturday The Edward M. Wright M.D. Memorial Award is handed out yearly to the player deemed most valuable when BC High and Catholic Memorial square off at BU’s Walter Brown Arena.

This year’s game, set for Saturday afternoon, won’t just be for bragging rights. Two crucial points will be on the line when the Eagles and Knights do battle. Those two points are all that currently separate the squads in the Catholic Conference standings.

The award, given to CM’s Derek Colucci last season, has been handed out the past 10 seasons in honor of Wright, a 1965 CM graduate who played in the first meeting between the schools in 1962.

Burke remembered Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of Brendan Burke, a 2006 Xaverian Brothers graduate and son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.

Burke became a public advocate against homophobia in sports after coming out to the Miami University hockey team, where he served as video coordinator and student manager. After coming out, Burke returned to Xaverian to talk about his experiences, which included quitting hockey in high school because of the homophobic culture.

On Feb. 5, 2010, at 21, Burke died after crashing his car during a snow storm in Indiana.

Xaverian held its alumni game in Burke’s honor two weeks ago, and among those on the ice were Brian’s brother, Pat Burke — a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers — and his stepbrother Jared Porter, a Red Sox scout.

Five to watch No. 5 St. Mary’s at No. 14 Archbishop Williams (Tues., 7:30 p.m.) — The Spartans, backed by goalie Don Hesse, have already locked up the Catholic Central Large crown, but a loss to the Bishops could jeopardize St. Mary’s Super 8 chances.

No. 3 St. John’s Prep at No. 2 Catholic Memorial (Tues., 3 p.m.) — The Eagles hold a 1-point advantage on the Knights in the Catholic Conference, and with both teams scrapping to pick up the necessary points to qualify for the state playoffs, these 2 points could have a big effect on the Super 8 standings.

No. 6 Central Catholic at No. 17 Billerica (Wed., 8 p.m.) — The media consensus seems to be that the Raiders will represent the Merrimack Valley/Dual County League in the Super 8, but really, what do we know? The Indians are undefeated in the MVC/DCL with a 1-point lead on Central, thanks in part to a 2-0 win over the Raiders in December.

No. 7 Weymouth at Needham (Wed., 8 p.m.) — The Wildcats and Rockets boast the Bay State Carey’s two strongest defenses, allowing 1.5 and 1.27 goals per game, respectively, in league play. With a win, Weymouth can eliminate Needham from conference title contention.

No. 9 BC High at No. 2 Catholic Memorial (Sat., 4:30 p.m.) — Key conference points are on the line in this year’s Edward M. Wright M.D. Memorial Game. CM blanked the Eagles, 3-0, in the team’s first showdown in early January.