Born in Shawinigan, Quebec, Martin Gelinas was a junior star with the QMJHL's Hull Olympiques. He was chosen seventh overall by the LA Kings in 1988 after a 63-goal season. Two months later he was part of the package sent to the Edmonton Oilers in the historic trade for superstar Wayne Gretzky. After starting the 1988-89 season in Hull and representing Canada at the World Junior Championships, the young forward played a handful of NHL games late in the schedule.
In 1989-90 Gelinas scored 17 goals and was effective on the power play for Edmonton when they went through a mediocre regular season. In the playoffs he formed an enthusiastic line with Adam Graves and Joe Murphy as Edmonton won its fifth Stanley Cup in seven seasons.
Gelinas was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in June, 1993 but experienced difficulty playing in front of the high expectations of his native province. Midway through the season he was picked up on waivers by the Vancouver Canucks and helped his new team reach the Stanley Cup final. Gelinas played the best hockey of his career in Vancouver and registered consecutive 30-goal seasons in 1996 and 1997. Early in 1997-98 he was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes where his speed and leadership helped keep the team competitive over the last four years. After two years of playing a more defensive role, Gelinas notched 23 goals in 2000-01 and helped his club give the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils a tough six game battle in the opening round of the post-season.
Gelinas returned for a fifth season in 2001-02 and scored the overtime winning goal in game six of the Eastern Conference Final against the Toronto Maple Leafs, clinching the Hurricanes their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. Carolina would eventually fall to the Detroit Red Wings and subsequently signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames in the off-season. Upon his arrival with the Flames, Gelinas continued his strong two-way play and was a key player in Calgary's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 against the eventual Cup champions from Tampa Bay.
Following a lock out in 2004-05, Gelinas was acquired by the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2005. He would spend two full seasons on the wing in Florida and provide veteran leadership on a relatively young Panther squad. His productive stint in Florida however came to an end in June, 2007 when the Shawinigan, Quebec native signed with the Nashville Predators as a free agent.