Former American ice hockey goaltender Joel Martin was hired as coach of the Kalamazoo Wings of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) on Monday. As a result, he became the second current Black coach of a men’s professional hockey team in North America.
The 39-year-old Martin, who was also named the director of hockey operations, had been the assistant and goaltending coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets affiliate for the past three seasons. Reacting to his appointment, Martin thanked the team owners for “entrusting me with the opportunity to lead this historic franchise.”
“[This] is a dream come true, and for that, I’d like to thank the Johnston-Stryker family,” he said, as quoted by NHL.com. “My focus is developing young leaders and competing for a championship because that’s what our fanbase deserves.”
“Joel has a detailed championship plan”
Ahead of being appointed as an assistant in 2018, the Texas native Martin played 15 professional seasons as a goaltender. This included nine Kalamazoo teams that competed in the ECHL, United Hockey League (UHL) and International Hockey League (IHL). He was later inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame on January 18, ranks second among goalies in league history with 22,962 minutes played, third with 394 appearances, and fourth with 199 wins.
“Joel’s been a valued member since the (NHLCA) program’s inception in 2020, and we’re thrilled for Joel to have earned this opportunity as the next head coach of Kalamazoo,” NHLCA president Lindsay Artkin said. “It’s incredibly encouraging to see an increase in the number of BIPOC coaches being hired at the men’s professional level. It clearly demonstrates that BIPOC coaches are getting more opportunities to network with those making the hiring decisions, as well as an overall shift in the culture around hiring.”