Martin Brodeur: Record-setting goalie going strong
When talking about the best goalies of all time, Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils is at the top of the list.
Brodeur was born in Montreal and one could say that goaltending was in his genes. Brodeur’s father, Denis Brodeur, was a goaltender on Canada's 1956 Olympic team that won a bronze medal.
When Brodeur’s father retired from hockey, he became a sports photographer for the Montreal Canadiens. Young Brodeur accompanied his father to Canadiens' games where he watched his idol, Patrick Roy.
Brodeur began playing hockey as a forward, but during a tournament, and in a tight spot, Brodeur was asked to fill-in between the pipes. Brodeur did an admirable job and the next season became the regular goaltender.
Wearing No. 30, Brodeur’s play in goal soon got him noticed by fans and scouts.
In 1990, he made it to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the same league that produced goalies Patrick Roy and Felix Potvin.
At the 1990 NHL entry draft, Brodeur became one of the few goalies to be selected in the first round when the Devils chose him 20th overall. Only a year after the draft, Brodeur moved up from the American Hockey League and became New Jersey's starting goalie.
After leading the Devils to the Eastern Conference finals, Brodeur gained recognition by winning the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie.
Brodeur presence instantly brought stability to the Devils, using a hybrid style of goaltending by standing up more than butterfly style goalies. It was a little unorthodox, but it worked.
He became fearless in net, challenging shooters from all angles and using his cat-like reflexes and his outstanding glove hand to turn away the puck.
Because of his early years as a forward, Brodeur established himself as one of the best skaters and stick handlers in the league. Having Brodeur as your goalie was almost like having a third defenceman on the ice!
It was Brodeur's offensive experience and ability to handle the puck, that fueled his personal dream to one-day score an NHL goal.
His chance came during the 1997 playoffs against Montreal. With his team up by two goals late in the game, he fired the puck the length of the ice and into the empty net to ensure a 5-2 win in the opening game of the series. Prior to Brodeur's goal, Ron Hextall had been the only goalie to ever score a playoff goal.
Brodeur's skills are only matched by the leadership he provides his team on the ice.
During the 1994-95 season, a .500 Devils squad managed to get into the post-season, but in the playoffs the team got better and better and Brodeur took his playing to another level.
In the finals, Brodeur and the Devils faced the heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings in a ‘David and Goliath’ type matchup. But with the strong play of Brodeur and the Devil's infamous "trap" method of play, the series became lopsided in favour of New Jersey.
Brodeur allowed just seven goals in four games and the Devils won the Stanley Cup in a clean sweep. Brodeur captured a Stanley Cup in only his second full season in the NHL. Not bad for a sophomore season.
Since then, Brodeur has won two additional Stanley Cup titles in 2000 and 2003 and has taken his team to the playoffs every year but one, an incredible feat.
He is the only goalie in NHL history with seven 40-win seasons. He is a four-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league's top goalie, a 10-time NHLaAll-star, and Olympic gold medallist.
However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Brodeur would secure his place in hockey history forever.
During the 2009-10 season, Brodeur would break Roy's record for most career wins and most playoff shutouts, as well as Terry Sawchuk's infamous record for most regular season shutouts.
Heading into another decade, Brodeur has shown no signs of slowing down, leading the Devils to the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
But, when Brodeur does decide to finally hang up his skates and take his place amongst the legends of the Hall of Fame, he will be remembered as one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game.