Nothing to save Brodeur from record book
Martin Pierre Brodeur was like any child growing up in Montreal – well, besides being a child of the man who photographed the fabled Canadiens on a nightly basis – in that all he wanted to do was play hockey.
When the opportunity to play for a second team at the same time as playing for another one presented itself, Brodeur jumped at the chance, even if there was a catch. You see, Brodeur was a forward. He liked to skate and score goals. But what the second team needed was a back-up goalie.
"I had a chance to play on two teams," Brodeur recalled during a conference call Wednesday. "It's a dream come true for a kid who loves to play hockey."
And the rest is history?
"That's it," he said, adding, "(I) made a good decision."
Oh so many years later, the 36-year-old Brodeur stands to break three more significant NHL records, one held by the legendary Terry Sawchuk and two others by his childhood idol, Patrick Roy. Brodeur is 13 wins shy of Roy's mark of 551 career wins and 61 appearances from Roy's record of 1,029 games played. Sawchuk had 103 shutouts, seven more than Brodeur's current total of 96.
Predictably, Brodeur is more focused on the start of a new season, his 16th in the NHL and all of them as a member of the New Jersey Devils. The definition of a workhorse goalie, Brodeur expects to extend his streak to 11 straight seasons with at least 70 appearances, and an eighth season with at least 40 wins seems attainable considering the Devils always manage to ice a competitive team.
The four-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, an award bestowed upon the league's best goalie by a vote of general managers, said he has gained an even greater appreciation for the game as time goes on. Burnout? Fatigue? Forget that. Brodeur is having too much fun to take anything for granted.
"I'm having a blast playing hockey," said Brodeur, who will be in the net Friday when the Devils open at home against the New York Islanders. "Right now, I'm 36 years old, and I'm really enjoying seeing the kids, seeing the young guys coming in, having their first experience of playing in the NHL, scoring their first goal.
"I know it's going to end soon, so I want to make sure I enjoy every moment of it."
His prediction of it ending soon is all relative. Brodeur has three more years remaining on his contract after this season. He said his best chance to win the Stanley Cup is still in New Jersey, and that's where he'd like to end his career some day. In another breath, he warned, "but things change in life, so I'll leave it at that."
The only thing that's about to change any time soon is the record book. And once it changes, it might be a long time before it is rewritten again.
What is it about Brodeur? Why has he been able to accomplish so much so quickly? It's a combination of factors. First, Brodeur. He's athletic, mentally strong, unfazed by what goes on around him and the pillar of consistency while being able to avoid major injury for many, many seasons. Another part of the equation is the Devils and their system. General manager Lou Lamoriello demands his teams play a certain way, and they do it well, year after year. It's a system built on preventing goals. Most call it boring, but winning never gets old.
"Definitely the way that the Devils have been playing as far as the system is concerned, it's pretty rare I'm going to get into these big shootout with like having to stop 45 shots one night, travel somewhere else and have to kill 12 penalties," Brodeur said. "We're a pretty structured team. Games are not maybe as hard as other teams'. When you have a good team year in and year out, I think it makes it fun to play a lot of games."
Brodeur, who holds more than 30 Devils franchise records, credits two people for helping him get to where he is today: Jacques Caron has been his goaltending coach throughout his career in New Jersey, and Mario Baril had an impact on him in Montreal, just as he helped a number of others including Roberto Luongo, Felix Potvin and Stefan Fiset.
The 10-time NHL All-Star does have one wish for any future marks he figures to set.
"I never really broke any records at home since I've been playing," said Brodeur, who has two of three children playing the position of goalie in youth hockey. "Every milestone I got, everything was on the road. Maybe it will be nice to do it at home."