Inside the post-practice dressing room, flames players are fielding media interviews as they shed sweaty equipment. Assorted staff and visitors are moving and milling about, all the while taking great caution not to step on the large Calgary flames logo emblazoned on the red carpet in the middle of the room. This little known fact of avoiding the logo seems to be sanctioned by all those bustling within the room densely laden with the smell of sweat.
Martin Gelinas, a native of Quebec and the NHL’s notorious “Eliminator,” signed on in May 2012, as the assistant coach of the Calgary Flames under head coach, Bob Hartley. His new position is now in high gear as the season advances. On this day, he is wearing a red golf shirt, track pants, and a very large smile, his hair wet and tousled from practice.
“I’m excited [to be here] because this is home for me.” He sits down on the wooden bench beneath Jarome Iginla’s equipment cubby to talk exclusively to The OGM. “It was always home. When I signed here [as a player] in 2002, we knew then it was going to be home.” Gelinas wife, Jane, who is from Calgary, has family ties to another former NHLer, Bill Hay, chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. For them it all felt right, and this new position for Marty has brought him and his family full circle.
With close business and personal ties to Whitecap Resources in Calgary, Gelinas is very excited about being closer to his well-placed investments. He says, “Most of my investments are hands-on and with oil and gas people.” He spoke about his successes in buying into a single drilling rig many years ago and cashing out when the number of rigs topped a count of eight. His most recent excitement is for cell phone towers. “There are many going up all around, some for BP, but we have two new ones near here at Nanton and Aldersyde,” he recounts.
While he had given more thought to a career in NHL management than coaching over the past few years, Gelinas is excited to position himself to give back to the young athletes rising through the ranks of the NHL, as well as join the ranks of the corporate community.
He laughed when he recalled a vacation in Mexico where he and his daughter shared accommodations with an owner of the Nashville Predators, Brett Wilson. It was with the Predators that Gelinas had spent the past four years fulfilling the role of director of player development.
“Brett [Wilson] is a nice guy. He always wants to learn, share, and get involved. He gives a lot back to the community … Leadership is doing the right thing every day. I try to live my life this way. I always try to do the right thing.”
When asked what it takes to make it to the top and stay there after 1200 NHL games, his eyes cast down momentarily before he responds: “It’s a roller coaster. It takes passion. That’s number one. If you’re passionate about [something], it means you’re willing to work at it. If you work at it, you’ll get better. Like anything in life, there’ll be ups and downs, but sticking with the program and staying level-headed can increase your chances of success. One cannot always take the easy route. I believe in enthusiasm. I bring it to work each day.”
A day at work for Gelinas often starts at 6 a.m., when the coaching staff reviews game tapes, preps for practice, and establishes strategies for the next game. This particular day started at 4:30 a.m. as he had to drop his son, Matthew, off at the airport en route to Tri-City, where he plays in the WHL. Like any business, the Flames coaching staff discuss the issues at hand, including player concerns and how best to contend with all other relevant matters to ensure a smooth-flowing operation.
He says, “Sometimes [the players] lose their focus. You have to bring them back on track. [This job’s] about communication.” After practices and more meetings, the workday can often end late into the evening, depending upon whether it’s a game day.
Gelinas brings the interview back to oil and gas and the community of leaders he’s anxious to join. “My job opens doors,” he says, as he looks forward to getting involved in the various communities around him, including corporate, charity, sports, and residential programs. “This is a vibrant city filled with leaders who really want to give back.”
“When you talk about this city … it’s number one. This is home, [and] it’s great fun to be part of.” As a huge smile spreads across his face, he continues excitedly, with his French accent peaking through: “I love my job and being hands-on.” Despite being torn between surrendering his NHL jersey for a coach’s cap, he concludes, “I have to say playing hockey is the best job in the world, but I [now] have the second best job. If you [make it], it’s a great life.”
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