Marty Turco won two national titles in four years as Michigan's starting goaltender.
March 8, 2013
By Chris Balas
Deciding when it's time to hang up the skates is a crossroads every NHL player has to face. Former Wolverine and longtime pro Marty Turco came to his at the end of last year after a long career in Dallas, followed by several months overseas and a few weeks with the Boston Bruins.
Turco admitted getting most, if not all, hockey out of his system after a career that included two national titles in four years as Michigan's starting goaltender, nine outstanding years with the NHL's Stars and one more with Chicago in 2010-11. Though not officially retired, he's moved on to the TV booth, providing Stars pregame and postgame analysis and work in between periods with former defenseman Craig Ludwig.
The opportunity to keep his family in Dallas, where they've lived for a decade while spending the summers on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, made the decision an easy one -- even if the formal training consisted of being thrown into action with the NHL Network a few years ago and being told, "Do your best."
"People come to me and say, `For a guy who is just starting out in that business, you're doing really good,'" Turco said. "I try not to mention to them that I did some work with the NHL Network, even some color commentary with TSN."
The latter was likely a one-time thing, he said.
"It was a lot of fun, but I was terrible," he said with a laugh. "I like my shtick now. There's no traveling, which helps with my golf game." Turco, of course, is being hard on himself. In his mind, though, the experience was memorable for one particular reason -- his biggest successes have been fueled by his most disappointing failures, leading to inner confidence and growth that made him and his Michigan classmates two-time national champions.
His 1998 group wasn't as heralded as the class of 1997, one he considers among the best all-time in college hockey. While Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison and Co. received many of the headlines, the class of 1998 remains the winningest in school history, notching 133 victories over four
The losses, though, were what set the stage for success. A triple-overtime loss to Maine in the 1995 Frozen Four and an undressing by head coach Red Berenson after Turco played poorly in a loss at hometown Lake Superior State -- "He brought me to my knees emotionally," Turco recalled -- were as vital in his growth as anything.
"We were successful and won some national championships, but more importantly for a young man that needed to learn the ways of the world, there was no better institution than the University of Michigan to grow up in -- no better place to be than Michigan athletics, in particular the tutelage of Red Berenson, to make mistakes and grow and ask questions," Turco said.
"You learn by watching, and if you want to become a leader or have it in you, what an honor it is to be around those types of people. That gave me the opportunity to have a successful NHL career. Without that, I wouldn't have been able to grow physically, mentally or emotionally.
"That taught me a lot about myself. By the time I went pro and was ready to start a few years later, I was ready for it. I knew the work that needed to be done and I knew what I wanted."
He couldn't have known he'd become one of the NHL's best goaltenders in his first year as a starter, however. Turco set the NHL record for goals- against average in 2002-03, posting a 1.72 mark in 55 games played. He set Stars career franchise records in games played (509), shutouts (40), and even most assists by a goalie, his stickhandling once prompting renowned Canadian analyst Don Cherry to call him "the smartest goalie in the game."
Turco never won a Stanley Cup with the Stars, making it to the Western Conference Finals only once (a 4-2 series loss to Detroit in 2007-08). That doesn't define him any more than his two national championship rings at Michigan do, he said.
"Had we not lost in the 1997 semifinal, we never would have become the leaders we were as a class in 1998 when we won it all," he said. "All of those things come with life. That's why I'm fortunate. It's not because of the money or because I went to the University of Michigan and got two rings.
Those things don't define you. Being able to pick yourself up and make others around you better, and to share it -- I share my success with my family, my friends, my schoolmates. I'm so proud of the things they've done. It gives you a different outlook on life that I wish a lot of my NHL