1984 – Bob Siembida
Mike “Sparky” Marta, ‘84 – #21 Jersey Retirement Party at Hamilton College – January 29, 2010
Honored by Bob Siembida, ‘86.
What a great day! Your jersey retirement is something for which I have been waiting quite some time! You are so deserving. I can only imagine how you feel! You should feel on top of the world…elated…beaming…a sigh of, “At last!”
But that’s not you. That’s not who you are or how you are. You are way too humble to show even the slightest bit of over-enthusiasm. Your humility is potentially one of your most endearing qualities, Mike. In fact, anyone who knows you will tell you that you are one of the most humble human beings we’ve ever met.
I had an interesting conversation with Coach Bazin last week about your induction. He had it right when he said one would never know, by your unassuming nature, that you were the most prolific forward in Hamilton hockey history. I couldn’t agree more. I told him of your consistent demeanor, meaning you were that way throughout your college years, and you are still that way 28 years later. I also told him you inherited this fine characteristic from your dad, who I had the pleasure of knowing from his many trips to the Hill with your mom for our home games. I’m sure he is looking down upon you today with immense pride.
Most superstars have a certain swagger to their walk, their talk, their demeanor. You can easily spot them in a crowd. They also seem to have certain expectations of those who surround them. You can smell their sense of entitlement. You? Not one bit. Heck, you blended in a crowd to the point where not even I, at 6’5”, could spot you! You never wanted to be treated differently. You just wanted to be one of us. While you were one of us, at the same time, you were different. You had an extraordinary hockey gift…and boy did you exploit it to the fullest.
Your remarkable stats speak for themselves. There is no doubt amongst us that you are the most gifted goal scorer and gifted passer in Hamilton hockey history. But there was so much more to your game that made you exceptional, and I was privileged to see it every day. My 7 knee surgeries may have kept me off the ice for all 4 years, but I was given an opportunity to continue to enjoy the game as the team’s manager. In my attempts to watch all 5 of our guys on the ice, I always found myself focused on your every move. It was impossible not to. Let me remind you of what I found most amazing about your rare talents and gifts.
What made you so spectacularly special on ice? There are two things, from my perspective:
1) You could control the pace of the game. In other words, while you may not have been the flashiest of skaters, that didn’t matter. You dictated the speed of the rush and the play. You had an uncanny ability to draw your opponent to you, which left you with two choices: either dish it off with precision to your linemate, or make a head fake, switch gears, and breeze by your opponent. Either way, the results were the same. Relentless attacks, defensemen on their heels, and goalies looking over their shoulders. I witnessed this over and over again, and oh what a joy it was!
2) You had 360-degree vision…like an owl, only better. You knew, at all times, where everyone was on the ice. You never hesitated to look, react, or think. Everything was instinctual. This 360-degree vision enabled you to be a prolific playmaker. You were the on-ice quarterback. Deceptive, sneaky, creative. That was you. I saw it over and over again, and oh what a sight it was!
While these were, I believe, your two most amazing gifts, they certainly weren’t your only. You had the ability to find the net, even if you only had a 3-inch opening in which to work. How did you score 119 goals when you could barely lift the puck?! It was mind boggling! But you rarely missed. A gift indeed.
How about your ability to feed your linemates? You didn’t have a selfish bone in you. You created opportunities and capitalized, deftly setting up your linemates…90 times, in fact. You could thread the needle. Virtually every game you created a highlight reel.
How did you always manage to find the open ice? How did the puck always find a way to land on your stick? The casual observer would wonder, “How does this guy get so lucky?” Was it the pair of eyes you drew on the blade of every Sherwood stick you played with? Maybe, but I think it was more than that. It was the special gift that only a few are born with. It was the magic that made you “Sparky”.
Despite your offensive talents, I always admired your ability to conserve energy. You knew that backchecking would only tire you, and it wasn’t very rewarding, so you empowered your linemates to handle that for you. A true team player!
In the locker room, you used your soft-spoken demeanor to lift your teammates in a unique way. Never one to yell or berate, you offered quiet inspiration. I fondly remember your gentile but passionate words of encouragement to our teammates. You were so determined and focused. You cared about the game more than anyone else did in the locker room. Your passion never waned. You led by example. You were a true leader.
Off the ice, I believe you were the first player, and perhaps the only one, in Hamilton history to have a personal manager. Your personal manager was always looking out for your well-being. “How many calories did you take in today, Sparky?” “Take another protein shake, you’re looking gaunt again!” “You’re not going to the frat party tonight are you? You need more rest!” “Did you work out today, Sparky? We need to keep your strength up.” “You really shouldn’t be dating her during the season…she’s a major distraction!” While I know your personal manager may have butted in at times when you just wanted to be left alone, be assured he only wanted the best for you. He wanted to create the perfect environment for your peak performance. There was no room for hindrances to your exceptional on-ice talents.
You truly were a gift!
In closing, Sparky, I want to thank you for providing your friends, parents, teammates and coaches a very exhilarating 4 years on The Hill. You gave us plenty to cheer about back then. It’s such a privilege to have you back, as your jersey is retired, and we cheer you once more! I look forward to a great weekend sharing memories and making new ones.
Cheers, my friend!
– Bob Siembida