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By John Dinner
Stepping down and walking away from a something you love is always tough.
Since the beginning of the 1998/99 varsity hockey season, head coach Barry Martinelli has known this was going to be his last year behind the Mustang bench.
"There is a time and place to step away and for me, I felt that this was going to be my last year," Martinelli said.
Their are a variety of reasons for Martinelli leaving the post, the biggest being his new job with intercollegiate athletics as athletic coordinator, a role he took on in September.
"I wouldn't say that I've completely lost my motivation, but this is an opportunity to do something different. It's a new challenge," Martinelli said.
He began his coaching career 15 years ago, filling in for the legendary Ron Watson. Since then he has coached the Mustangs for 13 years, spending two years in Europe as a head coach for a professional team.
During that time, the Martinelli-led Mustangs won two Ontario crowns, made four trips to the national championships and finished with over 200 career wins, a milestone he passed in December of last year.
"Winning that first Ontario title is probably the memory that stands out most in my time as coach," Martinelli commented. "I'm most proud of the fact that in my 13 years here we've never been below .500."
The 1998/99 season was probably one of the more disappointing seasons during Martinelli's coaching tenure, finishing with a 14-12 record and out of the playoffs for the first time since he took the job back in 1985.
"When you feel you're not as productive as you want to be that's when you need to step down," Martinelli said. "When someone has been in the same position as long as I have, it gets stagnated. It's time for a new perspective."
Martinelli's assistant coach Clarke Singer had nothing but praise for the retiring coach.
"Pretty successful coach is not the word," Singer said. "He's one of the most successful coaches in Western's history and is one of the most respected and winningest coaches in the CIAU."
Darwin Semotiuk, chair of intercollegiate athletics, said he believes losing a coach of Martinelli's quality and experience is a detriment to any sporting program.
"Losing anyone who's been there as long as Barry has and has had the success he has enjoyed will require a period of adjustment," Semotiuk said. "Everyone knows that Barry is very technically strong, but most importantly he has a reputation for being an excellent teacher and coach."
Many former Mustangs who have played under Martinelli have moved onto the professional ranks, mostly in Europe and minor pro leagues in the United States, with the most notable being Steve Rucchin, currently the first line centre with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
"He's got a good hockey mind with a lot of experience and knowledge, with a great hockey sense," said fourth-year forward Todd Bradley. "There was a lot of mutual respect. The players respected him and he respected our opinion, even when we didn't see eye to eye.
"He would listen to his players and respect their ideas and thoughts," Bradley said. "He was good with the guys and we really appreciated him as our coach."