Joseph Martino hadn’t been on the ice for three days. Sustaining a wrist injury on the third day of the Telus Cup, the Toronto Young Nationals Midget “AAA” forward was forced to watch his team from the stands of the Ford Williams Gardens in Thunder Bay. A win against the Calgary Buffaloes on day six saw the Nats advance to the Telus Cup Final for the second time in five years.
“I remember calling my father from the bus Saturday after we’d advanced to the finals and told him there is no way I’m not playing,” recalls Martino. “I cut off my cast when I got back to the hotel and told everyone I was fine to play.”
Still uncertain about the health of his wrist, it took Martino taking three hard shots in warm-up to convince the Nats coaching staff that he was fit to play. Proving others wrong has quickly become a theme in Martino’s hockey career. A mere four years ago, Martino decided to take a break from hockey after playing at the “A” level since Minor Atom.
“I always played hockey when I was younger but never took it seriously,” said Martino. “I ended up playing again in Minor Bantam after sitting out in Peewee and really began to focus. For Christmas that year I asked for a piece of plastic to shoot pucks off of. I spent countless hours outside shooting pucks daily, breaking the fence, shed, and later moving on to the garage. I knew if I wanted to play “AAA” I had to really focus and train harder.”
Entering his Minor Midget season, Martino went to the Nats tryouts and made the team, making the jump from “A” to “AAA” level hockey in just one season. The Nats would finish last place in the standings during the 2017-18 season, a result that never discouraged Martino from re-joining the Nats for his Midget year.
“When a group of guys really come together the way we did this year, incredible things can be accomplished,” said Martino. “This year we dealt with a lot of adversity, between players leaving, injuries, and having a short bench. Our coaches Brett and Aaron do a great job.”
Coming together was something the Nats continued to do right until the 1:31 into the second overtime at the Telus Cup Final.
“I remember going into the second overtime, getting out there for the first shift,” recalls Martino. “[Elias]Cohen made an unreal pass and everyone keeps asking me what I was thinking when I got that pass. I wasn’t thinking a thing other than to shoot the puck. The feeling of seeing the puck hit the mesh is truly indescribable. I still get the chills thinking about it. I was questionable to play but ended up scoring the game winner, kind of funny how things work out.”
For Martino, scoring the winning goal signified years of hard work coming together.
“I feel to be successful, you need to work when nobody else is,” said Martino. “I have goals both in and outside of hockey. Ultimately I just want to be a good all-around person and be reliable and available to others when needed.”
Click here to see a full recap of the Toronto Young Nationals Telus Cup win.