No one predicted that he and his teammates would advance as far as they have this season. Only the hardest of hardcore Devils fans believed that New Jersey wouldn't be swept after they went down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings. Yet, they have pushed this Stanley Cup Final Series to a sixth game.
Would they have be able to do all of this without 'Marty'?
First and foremost
All real hockey fans are still watching the game at this time of year.
Casual supporters are always welcome in the stands, because their money and game-day enthusiasm counts.
Then, there are those individuals who honestly back a favored squad throughout the season and into any potential playoff scenarios. After their own ice boys are done, they change the channel to the basketball playoffs, baseball or even golf.
Those fans whose first love is hockey have played the game since they were kids. Backyard rinks and street hockey contests were a major part of their young lives.
Those people mourn the spring exit of their own team, but still follow whoever continues to skate toward the Cup all the way to June's warm days.
Beyond some good-natured ribbing, I basically release any pre-existing thoughts about former iced foes after my own team has been defeated. Whatever group of men continue to suit up aren't doing so to beat the guys I follow. That logical conclusion enables the command of full respect, albeit of a temporary nature, for every player on every remaining playoff team.
Love, or hate doesn't matter
I never expected Brodeur to be able to front this Devils playoff run because I thought his day was done.
I wasn't certain who would win the Final before it began. After the Kings took the first three games, I thought that New Jersey might be able to eek out one win. Then, they got two.
Is 'Marty' channeling Turk Broda, who led the Toronto Maple Leafs famous back-from-the-dead assault against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942? That Hall of Fame goaltender historically took the final four games of that series and then hoisted the first of his five Stanley Cups over his head. For Brodeur, his fourth championship is only two wins away.
Regardless of which team wins the Cup this week, we can all be thankful to have been fans of hockey at this time in history.
Agree, disagree or take a neutral stance if you must. Under any line of thought, all rational hockey fans must agree that Brodeur is one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time. His efforts this season have served to lengthen that fact.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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- Martin Brodeur
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