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There's something special about number 19
Mustangs captain Matt Marantz leads both on and off the ice
Marantz fires a shot on net in a game earlier this season
At first glance, it may seem surprising that Calgary native Matt Marantz grew up idolizing Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic.
Yzerman and Sakic were the respective leaders of the bitter Red Wings and Avalanche rivalry at the turn of the century. Sure, there was Hasek vs. Roy and Lidstrom vs. Blake, but Yzerman and Sakic were the captains; they were the featured faces of the not-so-friendly foes. And they both wore number 19.
Marantz wears 19. Marantz is also the Mustangs’ captain.
Over five years, Marantz has seen it all. To wit, he is the only player still standing from his rookie season, in which he played 28 games and recorded 13 points. To date, Marantz has put up 74 points in 116 games for the purple and white in the regular season. More impressively, Marantz has played in 23 playoff games for Western, including 10 last season when the team went to the Queen’s Cup.
The Queen’s Cup was a bittersweet moment for Marantz, who calls the game the best moment of his Mustangs career, though he also makes sure to note what could have been in their loss to UQTR. The experience helps lend perspective to Marantz, which translates to the way he leads.
“I’ve finished on first place teams most of the time here and only been to the Queen’s Cup once, so it’s usually coming from somebody 4th, 5th, 6th in the league because the league is so close. We know that even though we had a tough first half, we have a good enough team that we could make a playoff run,” says Marantz.
Halfway through this season, the Mustangs are eighth in the West division. With a 6-9-3 record, they are barely clinging on to a playoff spot. That’s when the captain steps up.
Marantz has never finished a season with a losing record; he has never not made the playoffs. He understands what it takes to get there, and isn’t afraid to administer some of the tough love he learned from his peewee coach, who also doubled as his father. He recalls one instance of tough love vividly.
“I remember him coaching in peewee and actually benching me one game. I never thought my dad would actually bench me, but he was always there to give me a kick in the butt when I wasn’t playing good,” says Marantz.
Of course, there is also the “love” element of tough love, and Marantz refers to his father as the biggest hockey influence of his life.
“My dad taught me how to play, coached me growing up. I call him after every game, and we talk about every game,” says Marantz.
While Marantz’s father can claim the title of biggest hockey influence, Marantz now calls Mustangs head coach Clarke Singer the best coach of his career.
“When we were in junior they used to just yell and scream at you. Clarke just really talks to you, shows you the game, shows you what you need to do,” says Marantz, “If you’re not playing well enough he’ll tell you, but when you are playing well enough he’s right there with you. He wants you to succeed.”
And succeed Marantz has. In turn, Singer has rewarded him not only with captaincy, but with an increased role on the ice too, as evidenced by 26 points in 24 games last season. Marantz can also be spotted killing penalties and standing in the crease screening the goalie on the powerplay. All of this comes with the responsibility of the “C.”
“You can’t be somebody who doesn’t block shots and hit. You have to do all that stuff, and at the same time, you gotta put the puck in the net and score some big goals for our team,” says Marantz.
Off the ice, Marantz ensures that his team is fully focused on a game by game and period by period basis. In a recent 4-2 loss at Waterloo, the Mustangs went down 3-0 after one period.
“We really needed some motivation so there were definitely some words said in the dressing room,” says Marantz. Though the team lost, there was a noticeable increase in focus and effort over the final 40 minutes.
The nature of hockey as a team sport means reliance on everyone in the dressing room; it means that individuals cede complete control to a group of people, and that sometimes one mistake by one player can result in a loss. That’s why Marantz enjoys playing racquet sports in his spare time. He was introduced to squash by some veterans on the team in his rookie season.
“Individual sports. Honestly not having to play with people, you’re just on your own. I love competing 1 on 1 against somebody else and I just love racquet sports,” says Marantz.
On an individual level, Marantz continues to improve every year, from pee-wee with his father through Triple-A, the WHL and finally at Western. The drive to become a complete player and captain is something shared by Yzerman and Sakic; both studied the game hard and were rewarded with GM positions in the NHL.
Marantz continues to model his game off them, though he does have one concession.
“I thought I played like them but…I can’t shoot like those guys do.”
In reality, Marantz is a lot more similar than he thinks. Yzerman and Sakic both enjoyed sustained team success. That’s one checkmark for Marantz. The NHLers were 200-foot players who played in all situations. Another check for Marantz. Finally, Marantz’s idols both received the captaincy in their fifth year. Marantz can check that off too.
Now, Marantz just has to work on that shot.
Video footage and photographs provided courtesy of Western Communications