Goaltenders can hide emotions behind their masks. Not Martin Brodeur.
The beaming smile of the New Jersey Devils goalie shines through his protection, whether in practice or the most crucial game. His passion is unmatched. He loves the 1-on-1 competition. He enjoys beating teammates in practice and crafty opponents in games.
Most of all, Brodeur gets a big-time kick out of winning championships.
"From Day 1, this kid hasn't changed," said New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who drafted Brodeur 20th overall in the 1990 NHL draft.
"I have tremendous respect for him. He is a pleasure to be around because of his enthusiasm. He loves to be around the rink.
"He respects those who are talented and is not jealous of anybody. He doesn't blame teammates and knows when to be quiet when there is somebody to blame."
Lately, the championships haven't been as omnipresent as earlier this decade, when he won his second and third Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003, sandwiched in a 2002 Olympic gold medal and then celebrated a 2004 World Cup of Hockey title.
But there have been some impressive records for him to champion. Last March, he earned his 552nd victory to pass Patrick Roy and become the all-time leader. Now the 37-year-old Brodeur has tied Terry Sawchuk for the most career shutouts at 103 with a 3-0 blanking of the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
Interestingly, Brodeur only recorded four shutouts in 159 regular-season and playoff games in junior with the St-Hyacinthe Laser of the QMJHL.
"Shutouts are so hard to get," said Hockey Night In Canada analyst Glenn Healy, who had 13 career shutouts. " It's unthinkable and unheard of what he's done."
'Playing goal meant I could play every minute'
Terry Sawchuk earned shutout No. 102 as a member of the expansion Los Angeles Kings on March 14, 1968, and a final one with the New York Rangers on Feb. 1, 1970, 6-0 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Four months later, he passed away from complications after an off-season altercation with his former teammate Ron Stewart at a BBQ. Sawchuk had 103 shutouts in 971 NHL games; Brodeur tied him in 1,025 games. Sawchuk had 12 shutouts in 106 playoff games; Brodeur, 23 in 176.
The only story you need to know about Brodeur's passion for hockey is how, as a kid, he decided to become a goaltender. He initially was a forward, but his team needed a goaltender, so the coach asked for a volunteer.
"It was an easy decision," Brodeur said. "Playing goal meant I could play every minute of every game."
It didn't hurt that his father, Denis, was a capable goaltender. He won a bronze medal with Canada at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy.
The great Patrick Roy was Brodeur's hockey childhood idle, but his life hero is his father. That's why he is such a free spirit. That's why he makes time for the fans and reporters.
His father was a newspaper photographer for Montreal Matin and later the official photographer for the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Expos.
He would often relate stories about the athletes he met on the job.
"My dad would come home from work and tell me about the different hockey and baseball players, the good ones and the bad ones," said Brodeur, who comes from a family of two girls and three boys, including his brother Claude, who was a pitcher in the Expos' organization.
"For me, I knew what my father thought of these guys, the guys he liked and disliked. Early in my career, I think he made sure that I knew everybody had a job to do and to make time for the fans and the reporters. I enjoy that part … most of the time."
'He trusts the Devils and they trust him'
Brodeur was involved in a marital dispute six springs ago. It became public in the middle of the playoffs and later ended in divorce. He answered questions about it one day, then tucked away the off-ice problem, focused on the task at hand and won his third Stanley Cup title.
"He is very comfortable in his surroundings," said HNIC analyst Kevin Weekes, who spent two seasons as Brodeur's backup. "It's the only organization he's known.
"He trusts the Devils and they trust him. He's competitive, knows how to win. He's mentally strong and he'll do what he has to do to keep the puck out."
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Brodeur doesn't have a goaltending style that can be labelled. He simply does anything he can to stop the puck.
"He's basically an old-school goalie, which is unique in today's NHL," Weekes said. "He has a hybrid style."
"With goaltenders you pick up trends and find weaknesses," Healy added. "One of Marty's best attributes is that he reads and reacts so well and relies on his instincts. He reads the game so well."
Brodeur enjoys studying goaltenders and their styles. "When I was a young, developing goaltender, I watched Patrick [Roy] a lot and he was doing fine," Brodeur said. "But he hadn't won anything yet. He was a butterfly goalie.
"I also like when I play for Canada because then I can watch Roberto Luongo. My goaltending coach [as a kid] told me to make sure that I did anything to stop the puck. You don't want to give the shooter an idea of what you are going to do — stand up or go down, come out or stay in the net or stack my pads.
"In my career, I've always had it in my mind not to be predictable. Never make the same move in the same situation. That's why I never stop watching other goalies."
And they never stop watching him.