Updated: May 31
The Carolina Hurricanes Surprising Playoff Hero
Courtesy of Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
As the Carolina Hurricanes progressed through the NHL regular season and ultimately to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they faced their fair share of adversity.
In March, star forward Andrei Svechnikov’s fifth NHL season was cut short after a knee injury forced him to have reconstructive surgery on his ACL. Just a few weeks later, Teuvo Teravainen broke his wrist in Game 2 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and needed immediate surgery.
These injuries were a substantial blow to the Hurricanes’ roster, which was already missing Max Pacioretty and Ondrej Kase.
But as the Hurricanes advanced through the playoffs, forward Jordan Martinook stepped up to fill the team’s offensive gap and exceeded all expectations.
In October, 30-year-old Martinook was placed on waivers after the start of the 2022-2023 NHL season. The move was shocking to many fans, as Martinook has served as one of the Hurricanes’ alternate captains for several years and plays a pivotal role in the team’s off-ice culture.
However, general manager Don Waddell announced that the move was purely financial and allowed the Hurricanes to maximize their cap space for the season.
After he cleared waivers in the fall, Martinook battled for his spot among the Hurricanes’ talented group of forwards.
Martinook spent most of the season playing on the Hurricanes’ best-checking line with Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast. However, towards the end of the season, Martinook also skated with Sebastian Aho. This move put Martinook in the position to score the game-winning goal on April 2 to secure the Hurricanes’ third consecutive Metropolitan Division title.
But in the past month, Martinook’s season has taken a drastic turn for the better.
Although he did not record any points in the Hurricanes-Islanders first-round playoff series, Martinook led the team with seven shots on goal in Game 6 of the series. Martinook also played a large role in shutting down the Horvat-Barzal-Lee line throughout the series.
In the second round, Martinook was considered one of the fiercest players in the NHL.
As the Hurricanes fought against a well-rounded New Jersey Devils team - whose roster included former Hurricanes’ players Dougie Hamilton, Erik Haula, and Brendan Smith - Martinook went on an unexpected point streak.
In the Hurricanes-Devils five game series, Martinook managed to record 10 points. This included three goals and seven assists.
Martinook’s impressive point run tied him with Bates Battaglia and Cory Stillman for the most points by any Whaler or Hurricane in a single playoff series. He also became the second player in NHL history to record double-digit points in a playoff series after having zero points in the previous round.
“He’s been obviously our best player, really since playoffs started,” said Carolina Hurricanes’ captain Jordan Staal. “It’s just awesome to see him get rewarded, and rightfully so - he’s been tenacious, he’s been hard on pucks, and just his work ethic has been bar none. It’s been fun to watch.”
Martinook was also the Hurricanes’ nominee for the 2023 Bill Masterton Trophy. This award is presented every year to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook fights Washington Capitals forward Anthony Mantha at the 2023 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Robert Willett)
However, in the Raleigh community, Martinook is remembered for much more than his on-ice performance.
During the 2019 NHL season, Martinook befriended teenager Emma Izzo, a devoted Hurricanes fan who has Down Syndrome. Their friendship first began after Martinook waved to Izzo through the glass during warmups at an exhibition game.
Martinook also recalls seeing Izzo at the 2020 Skate with the Canes event, where she was cautiously waiting alongside the boards. After being approached by Izzo’s mother and brother, Martinook skated over, talked with Izzo, signed her jersey, and posed for a few photos.
“My mom has worked with adults with developmental disabilities my entire life. It’s just part of who I am. I’ve always been drawn to people with Down Syndrome because they’re so awesome,” said Martinook. “I saw Emma and she had her skates on. She was right on the edge. I had to go see her, just because how could you not? Her face just lights up.”
Emma Izzo and Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook at the 2020 Skate with the Canes event. (Courtesy of Tina Izzo)
The pair’s friendship even managed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until COVID-19 restrictions eased, Izzo passionately cheered the Hurricanes on from home, waiting for the day she was able to go see Martinook play in person again. In her first game back at PNC arena, Martinook took time to find Izzo at the glass and gave her his stick.
Izzo’s mom, Tina Izzo, says that the teenager has connected with many of the other players and has become an even bigger Hurricanes fan after her interactions with Martinook.
“To her, it becomes more of, ‘Oh, this isn’t just, we go sit and watch somebody play. This is a person, this is a team that likes me being here,’” said Tina Izzo. “For her to feel like she’s being noticed, it just puts it on a personal level for her.”
As the media picked up on Izzo and Martinook’s friendship, their story touched the hearts of many Hurricanes fans.
One fan even set up a fundraiser that raised over $11,000 so that Izzo and her family could have season tickets for the 2022-2023 season. The fundraiser also purchased tickets for other families with special needs children.
Before being traded to the Hurricanes in 2018, Martinook volunteered with Down Syndrome Arizona. He hopes that during his time in Raleigh, he and his wife Courtney can help connect with similar foundations and support the Down Syndrome community.
Although the Florida Panthers ended Matinook and the Carolina Hurricanes’ postseason run, fans are proud of their team, who overcame so much in the final weeks. They are also especially thankful for players like Jordan Martinook, who stepped up when he was needed most.
Courtesy of Tina Izzo