Matt Martin, in another lifetime, was Matt Rempe, minus 5 ½ or so inches.

When the Islanders’ enforcer broke into the league and played five games with the 2009-10 Islanders, enforcer was still a category of player on nearly every team. So Martin fought twice in those five games. And a year later, given a full season in the league, he did so 13 times.

So if anyone understands what Rempe, the 6-foot-8 ½ heavyweight champion of the Rangers, is dealing with right now, it might be Martin, who fought the rookie on his first career shift at MetLife Stadium back in mid-February.

“He’s obviously trying to make a name for himself,” Martin told The Post ahead of the Battle of New York’s renewal on Tuesday night at UBS Arena, a game Rempe is expected to sit out as a healthy scratch. “There’s certainly a line, I guess, that we all try to walk in terms of being effective and efficient and not costing your team at the same time. He’s a young kid. I’m sure he’s gonna figure out all those aspects of it. I’m sure his coaching staff’s talking to him about it.

“But he’s laying it all on the line and obviously he’s trying to make a name for himself and stick in this league, which is what all kids dream about. He’s been impactful for them. But he’s still gotta find that line and walk it consistently, keep himself on the ice a little bit more.”

Since that initial bout with Martin, Rempe has fought four more times, racked up 69 penalty minutes, a four-game suspension for elbowing Jonas Siegenthaler and sparked a line brawl between the Rangers and Devils after New Jersey took exception to his refusal to fight following the elbow.

While shuttling in and out of the lineup, he has also proven a potentially valuable piece for a team that doesn’t mind having some additional edge in its lineup.

Unlike what might have been the case 15 years ago, however, Rempe’s game has become the subject of scrutiny in a league that would rather not be associated with boxing on ice.

Martin did not quite have to deal with that, but he can recall sitting in meetings and being told that it would perhaps be better not to fight at every available opportunity.

“You come into the league, you’re physical, you’re running around, you’re hitting everybody, everybody wants a piece of you, especially then,” he said. “I’m guessing for him, it’s been similar. I obviously fought a lot more when I was younger, because you are trying to prove yourself, make a name for yourself. I don’t really go out there every game like, ‘Oh, I need to fight tonight’ now. But when I was younger, one, it was different rules, different game, everybody was fighting all the time, it felt like. And two, I was trying to establish myself.

“… I think I’ve learned from my mistakes as well when I was younger, the line you have to walk. And I think he will as well. I think it’s just a bit of a learning curve when you first come up and everybody’s chanting your name and everyone’s pumped, you’re running on emotion and energy. Sometimes you make mistakes and cross the line. As you get older, I think you learn to balance those things.”

Rempe, 21, joins a shrinking class of players across the league whose endearing quality is physicality. Martin, 34 and in the final year of his contract, has borne witness to the changing times.

“You gotta prove that you can play and take a regular shift,” Martin said. “I think that kinda phases [people] out or people just stop fighting you in general because you’re not bringing anyone else to the table.

“You look at all the guys in the league right now, even [Toronto’s] Ryan Reaves for instance of [Phildelphia’s Nic] Deslauriers, these guys play regular shifts, fourth line, they’re physical and can fight. They’re not just sitting there for 59 minutes of the game, just fighting, like some of the guys were back in my time when I was first coming up. There’s some guys that only played a minute or two tonight, just there to have the heavyweight fight of the night. So the game changed a lot. As players, we have to change with it or else you’re not gonna be around.”

Can Rempe stick?

“He gets their fan base going pretty good,” Martin said. “Hopefully for him, he’s just trying to carve out a career for himself. He’s just gotta find that balancing act.”

2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.