The passing of Pit Martin this past weekend prompted me to look up his hometown, which was reported as Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, a town I most closely associated with my favourite Maple Leaf of all time, Dave Keon.
I was surprised to see that a smallish city of about 40,000 produced so many NHL players. As I scanned the internet for hockey players from Rouyn-Noranda, I found no less than 18 current or former NHL players who were born in the small northern city.
Remarkable when you think of it.
I hail from Leamington, Ontario, where we can boast a population of about 20,000 and Â a total of eight players who have laced up NHL skates. I thought that was really good, until I realized just how many bonafide players came from Rouyn-Noranda.
Keon and Martin were probably the biggest names to emerge from the area, both carving out stellar NHL All-Star careers.
The Turgeon brothers, Pierre and Sylvain were also from Rouyn Noranda, as were the Bordeleau brothers. Not a household name by any means, but the Bordeleaus, Christian, J.P., and Paulin, all had decent NHL careers before jumping to the WHA.
Former Habs star and GM, Rejean Houle, also came from there.
And so did â€œRed Â LIghtâ€ Racicot, the Canadiens answer to Andrew Raycroft.
Current Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon was born and raise there too, along with several others, and was a teammate of Martinâ€™s in the 70s.
Which brings me back to Pit Martin.
Pit spent his early days of his NHL career with the Red Wings, and actually settled in Windsor after his playing career. He opened a bar there, called â€œPit Martinâ€™sâ€, which was a very popular establishment until an unfortunate stabbing incident several years back. Martin either sold or closed the bar after that, and moved back to the Rouyn-Noranda area.
My brother Pat, a former Blackhawk, missed playing with Pit by one year, but did get to know him a few years later, both as members of the Detroit Red Wing Alumni team.
He remembered Pit Monday, as a great guy who was very down to earth. In fact, Pit and his wife lived on a secluded Island in the middle of a lake up there, without running water, and many of the amenities we take for granted today. As down to earth as you can get , Iâ€™d guess.
He also told me a story about Pit that I found kind of quirky. A few years back, they roomed together on a trip out west with the Red Wings Alumni team and my brother was cooking up a fettucine alfredo dish with ham and peas. Pit refused to eat the dish because he claimed he never ate anything green. That would eliminate a lot of potentially healthy stuff from your diet, woulndâ€™t it?
Funny, when you think of professional athletes these days, they probably take in as many fruits and vegetables as they can, but here was an old-time NHL All-Star who didnâ€™t eat the veggies at all.
Anyway, when I heard of Pitâ€™s disappearance through my brother, who got an email early Monday morning, I found very little mention of him online, but as the story spread and the week progressed, more and more media outlets began reporting Martinâ€™s story, stats and photo.
Over 1100 NHL games with over 800 points, including a 90 point season in 72-73, not too shabby for a two way player from Rouyn-Noranda.