Steve Martinson’s short-term goal is to win his 11th professional hockey championship. His long-term goal is to catch Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman as the all-time winningest coach in pro hockey history.
With a contract extension awarded prior to the start the ECHL Western Conference finals Friday, Martinson can continue pursuing both of those goals as the coach of the Allen Americans.
Martinson has won 10 championships in his 25 seasons behind the bench, all in the minor leagues, including four in his eight previous seasons with the Americans.
Martinson celebrated his new contract with a 5-2 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets for a 1-0 Allen lead in the best-of-five series. The Americans jumped out to a 3-0 lead 12 minutes into the game on the way to their eighth consecutive home victory.
Martinson is the second winningest coach in pro hockey history with 1,088 victories. Only the NHL Hall of Famer Bowman won more games (1,244). His teams have won 15 division titles in his 25 seasons and captured championships in the WCHL, UHL and CHL in addition to the ECHL. This was the 12th time a Martinson-coached team has led the league in points in the regular season.
The Americans won the final six games of the regular season to vault from third place in the West past both Fort Wayne and Wichita into first for the top seed in the conference. Allen’s 45 victories led the ECHL as did the 236 goals scored by the Americans. Then Allen swept Utah in three games in the opening round of the playoffs.
The victory over Fort Wayne extended the Allen winning streak to 10 games. It also gave Martinson 53 career ECHL playoff victories, just three short of the league record.
This season may have been the finest coaching job of Martinson’s career as his roster was ravaged by Covid, call-ups and injuries. He was forced to play a franchise-record 52 players, including 25 rookies. Seven of those rookies remain on the playoff roster. Martinson also won games with five different goaltenders this season.