LAST GAME FOR WINGS STAR MARTIN

THE WINGS PLAY ROCHESTER FOR THE MILL TITLE TODAY AT THE SPECTRUM. IT WILL BE GARY MARTIN’S SWAN SONG…

By Tim Panaccio, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

He used to be a playmaker, running the carpets of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League with the kind of abandon with which he ran the outdoor fields at Penn State.

These days, the Philadelphia Wings’ 33-year-old forward is mostly known for leading the MILL in annoying injuries.

Hard to believe that Gary Martin once led the country in scoring with 68 points in 11 games in college.

“Gone from a playmaker to a grinder,” Martin sighed. “Now I’m defensive specialist, working penalty-killing and face-offs. I don’t run the floor like I used to. I might not be as quick as these younger guys, but I’m still twice as smart.”

Field smarts have enabled Martin to outlast most players in the league, earning the maximum wage of $500 a game – more than five times what he earned as a rookie.

Today, when the Wings host the Rochester Knighthawks at the Spectrum for the MILL Championship, Gary Martin will be playing his final game in silver and black.

The game also marks the fourth straight appearance for the Wings in the league final.

“Too many nagging injuries,” Martin said of his pending retirement. ”It’s time to go. I was a young 32 last year, but I’ve seemed to age since then. I got bones sticking out of me in places where you never knew you had bones.”

Martin’s physical well-being took a tumble last season when he separated his right shoulder, ending a 61-game playing streak – then the longest in the league. That injury seemed to trigger a slew of other ailments. Hip pointer, ankle sprain, knee sprain, bruised elbow . . .

“All that plus raising three kids, including a third child this year, plus working full time, it’s gotten to be too much for me,” Martin said. “We only practice once a week, from 9 to 11 p.m., but you got to do that, too, and my sales job leaves me tired.

“It’s funny, but the words family and marriage scare a lot of guys on this team.”

Don’t get Martin wrong. All the bumps, bruises, and 90-minute commutes to Baltimore during the days when the Wings practiced there haven’t amounted to nothing. Martin has been an integral part of three Wings championship clubs.

“This team is a lot different than some of the others,” Martin said. “We lost two superstars in Paul Gait and Rob Shek (to other clubs). The big difference is that so many younger guys have stepped up to handle the scoring and not relied solely on Gary Gait to do it.”

Those include second-year players such as Tom Marechek, who finished the regular season second to Gary Gait (30 goals, 48 points) in scoring with 35 points (17 goals), and former Villanova Wildcat Jim Rogers, whose nine assists have all been at home this season, and who has three points in the playoffs.

Gary Gait, whose 30 goals paced the league this season, won the MILL most valuable player award for 1995 and today goes against his brother Paul, a former Wing, and the first player ever to score 100 goals.

Paul Gait transferred to Rochester this season because the commute from his home in Syracuse was exhausting and “hurting his marriage,” Martin said.

(Philadelphia Inquirer, April 8, 1995)

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