Martin Inc. in full swing

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Over the past two decades, Kevin Martin has taken care of business on the ice.

Just 24 when he won his first Brier in 1991, Martin has become a major player in the game's development off the ice.

Yet, it was not until after he won the 1997 Brier that Martin understood what high-profile athletes in many other sports have figured out and hired an agent.

Better make the most of it while you can.

Kevin Martin Inc. was born and after going undefeated in back-to-back Briers with a world championship tossed in, his off-ice schedule continues to grow.

The more he takes care of business on the ice, the more business takes care of him off the ice.

"To have corporations acknowledge curling as a real sport, that's probably only happened in the last 10 years," said Martin. "The image of the athlete in our sport has changed so much. (Lead) Ben Hebert and (second) Marc Kennedy hit the gym every day. Before games John (third Morris) always hits the bike. Who would hit the bike for a half-hour before a curling game 10 years ago?

"The image has changed and therefore the corporate image has changed and so we're busier off the ice."

Martin estimates he's made 43 appearances for a fee in the past year. In the last three weeks, he's combined a corporate appearance in Toronto and skated with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, made a two-day appearance in front of school kids in Whitehorse (there's no fee for a school, he says) and spoke at an annual corporate meeting in Sherwood Park.

"I haven't had (hockey) equipment on since 1982, so that was cool," said Martin.

"It's more of an opportunity for everybody in curling than there used to be. It's excellent that corporations are looking toward curling and curlers themselves as individual athletes.

"It's becoming more and more like the other sports. I enjoy banquets where I hear different athletes talking. I'm not sure I'm a motivational speaker. I just love to tell stories and talk about curling and what's going on in the sport right now.

"It doesn't matter if you're a curler or not, you've noticed the sport has changed. When you go to talk, people get into it because they want to see what's happened in our sport the last 10 years that's changed it so dramatically."

Martin has been an agent of change himself. He took a leading role as president of the World Curling Players Association during curling's period of turmoil earlier this decade.

"We've had the Olympics, the Tour growth and the player growth," said Martin. "The Players Association didn't have much traction until about then. Grand Slam, the boycott. All that stuff happened at the same time.

"What helped it? I think everything did. I don't think you can say one thing did it, but it's been real positive and it's been good."

No other skip has been at the Olympics twice like Martin. He was there when it was a demonstration sport in Albertville, France, in 1992 and brought home a silver medal from Salt Lake City in 2002.

"When you sign bigger sponsorship deals (because of the Olympics), they expect you to work harder," said Martin. "It's just more a business deal.

"Years ago, it used to be a friendship thing. You make a little bit of money and get to hang around a bit. It's not like that any more. It's all about the ratings and numbers and making sure the math makes sense.

"With that, we have to carry an image that our sponsor wishes his product to be seen with. Our athletes keep getting younger and younger and more fit. It's a real healthy flow to our sport and the Olympics has a lot to do with that."

Martin lost his chances to go to the 1998 Olympics with a last-rock loss in the trials final at Brandon to Mike Harris.

"Once you've been to an Olympics, you realize that it's so different than anything else," said Martin. "It's the most fun you can have in sports. There's more pressure, which I enjoy. It's very unique. I'd love to get to a third one.

"(You go) to get the job done, for sure, but I'm not sure that's the most important thing. Being part of Team Canada, the whole picture. It opens the world up in a different direction for you."

Martin and the crew he put together for this Olympics run are at the top of their game now.

Can Martin make it three Olympics? Time will tell.

TEAM MARTIN SCHEDULE

SUNDAY, DEC. 6

6 p.m. vs. Jason Gunnlaugson

MONDAY, DEC. 7

1 p.m. vs. Pat Simmons

TUESDAY, DEC. 8

8:30 a.m. vs. Wayne Middaugh

6 p.m. vs. Jeff Stoughton

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 9

1 p.m. vs. Randy Ferbey

THURSDAY, DEC. 10

8:30 a.m. vs. Kevin Koe

6 p.m. vs. Glenn Howard

KEVIN MARTIN, SKIP

Age: 43 Occupation: Business owner. Highlights: Skip of four Brier winners -- 1991, 1997, 2008, 2009; skip 2008 world champions; skipped Canada at 1992 and 2002 (silver) Olympic Games; skip of 1985 Canadian junior champions.

JOHN MORRIS, THIRD

Age: 30 Occupation: Firefighter. Highlights: Third for Martin on Brier, World winners; skip of Ontario for 2002 Brier runner-up; skip for 1998-99 Canadian junior and world junior champion teams.

MARC KENNEDY, SECOND

Age: 27 Occupation: Business owner. Highlights: Second for Martin on Brier, world winners; won 2003 World University Games with Mike McEwen.

BEN HEBERT, LEAD

Age: 26 Occupation: Marketing representative. Highlights: Lead for Martin on Brier, World winners; won gold medal at the 2005 Karuizawa Invitational as lead for Pat Simmons.

CON.GRIWKOWSKY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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