The NLL is facing unprecedented times due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. While we have a break in the action, Bandits.com chatted with defenseman Justin Martin to talk about what sport he’d play if he didn’t play lacrosse, what he loves about playing in Buffalo and more.
Bandits.com: When did you start playing lacrosse?
Justin Martin: I started playing lacrosse when I was eight years old in the Oakville Minor Lacrosse Association.
Bandits.com: Why did you start playing lacrosse?
Martin: My best friend had signed up one summer, so I wanted to give it a try. I had a few hockey teammates that played as well, but other than that I didn’t really know anything about lacrosse.
Bandits.com: Have you always played defense?
Martin: Growing up I played offense and defense, but I always enjoyed the defensive side more. I always liked the challenge of shutting down the best players on opposing teams.
Bandits.com: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Martin: I played football in the fall and hockey in the winter. I gave hockey up at a pretty young age, but I stuck with football throughout high school and into my first year of university before I decided to focus strictly on lacrosse.
Bandits.com: Did you have a favorite NLL team growing up? Did you attend NLL games?
Martin: The Toronto Rock were my favorite team growing up. I went to a lot of games in Toronto and watched a lot of Rock vs. Bandits games, but I never experienced an NLL game in Buffalo.
Bandits.com: What memories do you have from attending those games as a young fan?
Martin: I just remember having a lot of fun going to games with friends and teammates. Toronto always had a great team and several all-time great players that I really loved to watch. My favorite part about games and a memory that always stood out for me was when we would get to visit the team locker room after games. I always enjoyed meeting the players and I always had something for them to sign.
Bandits.com: If you weren’t playing professional lacrosse, what other sport would you want to play professionally?
Martin: Football for sure. Like I mentioned, I grew up playing football and I come from a football family. My father and grandfather both played professionally in the Canadian Football League so I’ve always had a love for the game.
Bandits.com: Where did you play junior lacrosse?
Martin: I played two years of Junior B with the Oakville Buzz and two years of Junior A with the Burlington Chiefs.
Bandits.com: What was your reaction when you were drafted by the Bandits?
Martin: I was just really excited. I didn’t know what to expect on draft day, but when I heard the Bandits call my name it was an unbelievable feeling. I knew they had a great history, tradition and, of course, an incredible fanbase. It took a while to sink in that I was going to be a part of that. The cherry on top is that it’s only an hour from my hometown, which has made it easy for friends and family to attend games. I couldn’t ask for a better place to play.
Bandits.com: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Martin: I’ve always tried to focus my game around being a consistent, shutdown defensive player. I take pride in the small details of the game and try to make life difficult for opposing players every shift.
Bandits.com: What’s it like playing for John Tavares?
Martin: Playing for JT is awesome. As the greatest player ever to play, he saw the game a step ahead of everyone else. He brings that same IQ as a coach; he’s always adding new wrinkles that make a big difference for us both offensively and defensively. He brings a very positive approach and encourages us to play fast and not worry about making mistakes.
Bandits.com: What are the challenges of being away from the team right now?
Martin: Just not being able to see the guys every week is the toughest part. We always have a lot of fun when we’re together. Getting together as a team and playing the game we love is always the highlight of the week, so not having that outlet has been challenging.
Bandits.com: How would you describe Bandits fans?
Martin: Passionate and supportive. They bring the energy each and every night and make KeyBank Center the most electric place to play in the NLL.
Bandits.com: What’s your favorite memory from Banditland so far?
Martin: Winning the East Championship last year has been my favorite memory so far. The atmosphere in KeyBank Center was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t help but think about what it would feel like to deliver a championship to Buffalo; it certainly adds fuel to the fire.