85 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers: Pit Martin
In this edition of the "85 Years" series, Dennis Hull remembers fellow MPH Line member and former Blackhawks captain (1975-77) Pit Martin.
The funny thing about my time with Pit Martin was that he was never supposed to be my linemate in the first place. The year that the Blackhawks traded for both Pit and Jim Pappin, the original idea was that they were supposed to play with my brother, Bobby. But that was the year Bobby held out to start the season, so I was given two new linemates. I kept them for eight seasons. Not only did we play together, but Pit, Jim and I began a friendship that lasted decades after our playing days.
On November 17, 1926, the Chicago Black Hawks took the ice for the first time. 85 years later, the Blackhawks hold an important place in NHL history and Chicago sports.
In celebration of the Blackhawks’ 85th anniversary, Blackhawks Magazine and chicagoblackhawks.com will profile some of the greatest players to ever don the sweater, with essays written by the people who knew them best: teammates, rivals, broadcasters and other members of the NHL community.
Check chicagoblackhawks.com every Wednesday for another entry in the "85 Years" series.
Recent "85 Years" essays:
> Jonathan Toews, by Steve Yzerman
> Bill Hay, by Eric Nesterenko
> Bob Probert, by Dave Manson
> Dirk Graham, by Troy Murray
> Jeremy Roenick, by Keith Tkachuk
Even before the Blackhawks, Pit and I went way back. We faced each other in juniors when I was in St. Catharines and he was in Hamilton. We didn’t know each other too well when he played for Detroit and Boston, but when he came to Chicago we became friends almost instantly.
In short order, Pit was one of the best-liked guys on the team and a real leader inside our locker room. Sometimes there are cliques on teams, but he fit in with every group. We were told what kind of player he was before he arrived, but as good as those reports were, he was even better than advertised.
I know one thing: He liked to laugh. Pit and I were the guys who tried to keep things light; Jimmy was pretty serious. But I could tell Pit the same joke 10 times and he’d still laugh—he was a good audience that way. He was a great person to be on the ice with, to be on the bench with and to have inside the dressing room. He was the kind of player you loved to play with, and it made him a great captain as well.
That phrase “better than advertised” goes for his play on the ice as well; Pit was a lot better than people gave him credit for. He was fast, he was very good with the puck all the time and rarely ever made the wrong decision on the ice. He was an excellent player who didn’t always get the credit that he deserved. He made Jim and me better.
The chemistry that we had as a line carried over away from the ice, too. We and our families always went out together after games and practices, and in the summer we’d see each other a lot at golf tournaments and whatever was going on. Before Pit passed away, he would always come to my farm in the summer for a week or so, and Jimmy would come as well, and it was the same as it ever was. We were lucky enough to not only play on the same line but to be good friends, which is unique.
We always knew how important we were to each other, on and off the ice. When we all made the All-Star Game in 1974, which was in the old Chicago Stadium, we decided to come out as a line instead of individuals. None of us would have made it there without the others. We just saw ourselves as a line, as one unit. Or maybe we did it, as Jimmy said, because we didn’t want to give the fans a chance to boo us one at a time. Either way, it was a great moment.
If Pit had played for the Blackhawks his whole career, I think Hawks fans would see his career differently and could have gotten to know the player and person even better than they did. Because he played for so many different teams, it’s easy to forget how good he really was. But his dedication to his team, teammates and fans was unmatched, and as a person, he was the best.
I am honored to say that I played with Pit Martin, but I am grateful to have been his friend.