He saves, she scores

SEAN MCKIBBON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

If only becoming a bachelor were as lucrative as becoming a free agent.

Former Ottawa Senators coach Jacques Martin, 53, just lost an appeal of a divorce court ruling that awarded his ex-wife Patricia $27,000 a month in spousal support -- more than double what she testified she needed to maintain the standard of living she enjoyed while they were together.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decision issued Friday says Justice Denis Power was right to conclude that because of the insecurity of Martin's profession as a pro hockey coach, Patricia Martin should be able to continue her ex-husband's practice of saving large sums for a rainy day.

Yesterday Martin's lawyer Hunter Phillips said his client was "disappointed" with the decision.

"The issue was never ability to pay," said Phillips. "The question was whether it is appropriate to award support payments purely for the accumulation of post-separation savings."

Phillips argued unsuccessfully on appeal that the larger than required support payments constituted an illegal "transfer of capital."

Prior to the divorce trial, marital assets had already been split up with Patricia receiving a share worth some $1.7 million, Phillips said. Evidence at the trial showed Patricia would earn an annual investment income of more than $81,000 a year, while Jacques would earn more than $181,000 in investment income with his share.

"The court of appeal has basically said they agree with the trial judge without saying why," Phillips said, adding no decision had been made on whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.

SAVED FOR RETIREMENT

During the course of his employment as head coach of the Sens, Martin directed huge portions of his salary into retirement savings. Court documents show in 2003-2004 that with an annual income of $1.5 million, excluding bonuses, Martin saved $1.15 million for retirement. In previous years Martin maintained a similarly robust savings program of anywhere from 38-76% of his total income.

Martin, now coaching the Florida Panthers, testified at his divorce proceedings that the savings regime let him take advantage of potential tax deductions and was there because of job insecurity.

After he was fired as head coach of the St. Louis Blues in 1988, it took him seven years to get another head coaching position in the NHL.

The decision also took note of Martin's early career when he was earning only $10,000 a year plus expenses coaching the Peterborough Petes in 1983. He, Patricia and their two kids were living rent-free in fellow coach Roger Neilson's cottage and Jacques supplemented their income by supply teaching.

Patricia Martin, the appeal court noted, was a stay at home mother who became totally dependent on her husband.


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