MONTREAL – Hubert (Pit) Martin was a “wonderful guy” and a great hockey player, his former Chicago Blackhawks teammate Dale Tallon said Monday.
Martin, a four-time NHL all-star in the 1960s and ’70s who played 11 seasons with the Blackhawks, died after his snowmobile plunged into an icy lake near his home town of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., a provincial police spokesman said.
Const. Marie-Josee Ouellet said Martin, 64, was driving the vehicle on Lake Kanasuta in northwestern Quebec on Sunday when the ice cracked and he plunged into the freezing water.
She said another man who was driving a separate snowmobile at the time has confirmed Martin ended up in the water. Divers were still attempting to retrieve Martin’s body.
“He always came back in the summer to play golf,” Tallon, now general manager of the Blackhawks, recalled of his fellow native of Rouyn-Noranda, a hockey hotbed that produced a long line of NHL stars. “I always admired him as a kid growing up in Noranda.
“He was a wonderful guy. It’s very sad.”
Martin, who would have turned 65 next week, lived on an island in the lake that was reached by boat in summer and snowmobile in winter, but there were always tricky periods in spring and fall when the ice had to be tested regularly, Tallon said.
“I guess they caught a bit of a hotspot,” he added.
The diminutive but speedy Martin played 1,101 NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, the Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, amassing 809 points from 1963 to 1979.
The five-foot-eight, 165-pound Martin was a strong skater and passer whose best years came on Chicago’s MPH line with Jim Pappin and Dennis Hull. The Blackhawks had been planning to honour the line at the United Center this season.
He won the Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship and perseverance in 1969-70, his first of three 30-goal campaigns. He had a career-high 90 points in 1972-73 with the Blackhawks.
“He was a very smart player, with good speed, and an excellent playmaker,” said Tallon, who was seven years younger than Martin and was a good friend of his younger brother while growing up. Tallon and Martin ended up as teammates through most of the 1970s in Chicago.
Nicknamed Pit after a character in a comic strip, Martin spent his last two seasons with Vancouver, retiring after the 1978-79 season.
Martin was part of one of the biggest blockbuster trades in hockey history in 1967, when he, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris were shipped to Chicago in the deal that made Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield part of a Bruins dynasty.
Although the trade has been panned as one of the most lopsided ever in Boston’s favour, Tallon said Martin became an important player for Chicago and had “a very good career.”
Martin, part of a Rouyn-Noranda generation that also produced Dave Keon and Jacques Laperriere, began his NHL career with Detroit, but was traded to Boston in 1965 for forward Parker MacDonald after five seasons split between the Red Wings and their AHL farm club in Hamilton.