Paul Martin is arguably the best athlete that Elk River High School has ever produced. He excelled in football, hockey and baseball for the Elks and probably could have been very good in several other sports.

Martin chose hockey and went on to stardom at the University of Minnesota where he helped lead the Gophers to two national championships in three years.

Then it was off to the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. Martin parlayed free agency into two long-term contracts, first with Pittsburgh and then with San Jose. He was an above average defenseman who had a 15-year pro career.

Elk River was solidly behind Martin all the way. By nature, he was quiet and a little shy but he was always there for charity work in his hometown. Everyone thought he was on top of the world. A highly skilled player with a multi-million dollar contract and lots of time in the limelight.

Little did most people know what was going on behind the cameras. Just recently I read an article by Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press that stunned me and I’m sure many other Elk followers.

Murphy detailed Martin’s fight with depression and addiction to pills and alcohol that dates back to 2010. He hit a low point in 2018 when San Jose bought out the last year of this contract, his NHL career now over.

Two trips to a California rehabilitation facility helped Martin get back on track and he has now been sober for more than 500 days.

Martin experienced several major injuries during his playing days, injuries that created a lot of time away from his team. That was a factor in him choosing the wrong path.

Things have improved for Martin as his life is now back on track. He is finishing his degree at the U of M and is helping coach the successful hockey team.

Martin hid his problems from nearly everyone for a very long time. Why come out now and tell the whole story? Because he is a class act, always was, always will be. His story will show others that addiction is not a death sentence. With a lot of courage and dedication you can get your life back.

After reading Martin’s story, I have more respect for him than ever. His battle with addiction is bigger than any he has ever faced on the ice. We are talking about the rest of his life here, long after hockey is just a memory.

Martin has been a hero to every Elk River kid that has laced up skates. Now he is just as big a hero off the ice.

Elk River will always be proud of Martin. He helped put our city on the map through his tremendous high school, college and pro career. That pride extends to his ability to face his demons head on and come out stronger on the other side. — Elk River Mayor John Dietz

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