Do I like Steve Martinson? Not really. “Respect” is closer but that is not quite the word I’m looking for, either. I think the best way to describe it is that I have an “appreciation” for him and his teams.
Any drama needs a good villain, and he and his teams fill this role quite well. They lead the league in PIM every single year. When they aren’t taking penalties themselves, they are doing everything to get under the skin of the other team. This year, they brought us the Jack Combs Saga. In past years a couple players sat out until January before deciding to play again for the stretch run. There are always whispers that they take liberties with the salary cap (whether true or not). They are a team you want your team to beat more than other teams. All of these things make for a potentially great rivalry.
The closest thing to a heated rivalry that Allen has had was with the Brahmas a few years ago. Every game was extremely hard fought. The Brahmas always got up for those and even won their share of them. The games featured tons of fights, and all kinds of crazy incidents and drama. Suspensions were common. Message board debates raged. If you followed the CHL, you almost had to choose a side and follow along. It was exciting. It’s unfortunate the Brahmas are no longer around, and that a new rivalry has not ignited in the same way since then. That kind of rivalry would sell gobs of tickets here in QC, even if we were on the losing end of it.
Back in the day the Mallards had great rivalries like that (and probably even crazier) with a couple different teams. It really took things to another level. You could argue that Jim Duhart and Robbie Nichols sold nearly as many tickets in QC as Kerry Toporowski or Hugo Proulx. Martinson’s teams are kind of a throwback to those times.
It sounds like Martinson is planning to come back next year as the Americans’ coach, but in terms of a potential rival to the Mallards, it doesn’t matter much. The Mallards will no longer be in their division and not play them very often at all. I’m rooting for someone to step up and be Allen’s villain in their new division, and for the Mallards to find theirs as well. It will make for some entertaining hockey if they do.