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A Look Back as We Say ‘Goodbye’ to Martin Brodeur

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 09: Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center on February 9, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

This was an article written at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline when many were under the impression that Brodeur had just played his last game as a Devil. I present it now without any changes to it:

Let’s turn the clock back to June 16, 1990 in Vancouver. A young NHL franchise playing in the shadows of Giants Stadium is looking to prove it belongs. General manager Lou Lamoriello is about to change Devils hockey forever as he steps up to that podium and makes the 20th selection.

Martin Brodeur, a young goalie from Montreal — with an awkward mustache and a bad haircut — the son of Denis, goalie of Canada’s 1956 Olympic team, and Canadiens team photographer. Young Marty tagged along with his dad every night to watch his idol Patrick Roy in net at the Montreal Forum. Little did anyone know that one day Marty would be every bit as important to New Jersey as Roy ever was to Montreal.

In 1993-94 Brodeur made a name for himself, winning the Calder Trophy as the Leagues top rookie. His unusual hybrid style in the net gave the Devils to the second best record in the East and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Then came the lockout shortened ’95 season. The Devils were a middling playoff team in a small market. An afterthought to most fans around the league. But the kid with the bad haircut from Montreal shut the Bruins out three times in the first round en route to victory.

Brodeur shut down the Penguins. Then he did the same to the Flyers. All of a sudden the Devils and Brodeur were staring down the Detroit Red Wings in their first ever Stanley Cup appearance.

Sweep.

The Wings mustered just seven goals in four games against Brodeur and the Devils trap, a neutral zone-oriented defensive style of play that used the Devils’ strength (their future Hall of Fame defenseman) to their advantage. 13 years into their existence, the lanky goalie had won the Devils their first Stanley Cup.

Just like that I was hooked on Devils hockey. My earliest memory of Brodeur was in 1997 as a five-year old. All I wanted was to be like No. 30 in red and black. He controlled the puck like a forward — so much so that years later after the 2004-05 Lockout, the NHL created a new rule involving a trapezoid behind the net so goalies couldn’t play the puck like Marty did anymore — but he commanded the crease like it belonged to him. He stacked the pads, he baited shooters with his glove and stunned them when he swiped the puck out of mid air, he even scored a goal. Five-year old me didn’t even know goalies were allowed to do that.

I spent my childhood in the white Brodeur jersey I got for Christmas when I was 10. I still have it, my brother still wears it. I stayed up past my bed time with my dad to watch the Devils win in 2000 and I cried my eyes out when they didn’t in 2001.

Brodeur owns nearly every single record a goalie can own at this point. Wins, shutouts, games played by a goalie. 10 All-Star games, three cups in five appearances, four Vezina Trophies and five William Jennings Trophies. I don’t have to tell you how impressive he was, the numbers speak for themselves. He made everyone in the Meadowlands proud to be a hockey fan. He was somehow the “other” goalie in every Stanley Cup he ever played in, and that was fine. That was who the Devils were, and we were “ok” with that.

He seemingly froze time in 2012 and ripped the monkey off his back that the Rangers left there all those years ago in ’94. Replaced “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” with “Henrique, it’s over!”

Most importantly, Brodeur made me love hockey. He was, and still is, a fierce competitor. He was the underdog even when he shouldn’t have been. He was the greatest goalie I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Despite some of his personal flaws, No. 30 was my hero. He was everything I wanted to be.

On Saturday, March 1, 2014 Brodeur stopped 18 shots and the Devils beat the Islanders 6-1. To some it may have seemed like nothing out of the ordinary and to some extent it wasn’t. But on this day Patrik Elias hugged his goalie a little tighter, a little longer than usual. Andy Greene grabbed the puck out of the net before he skated off.

Brodeur gave everything he had to the Devils for 21 years. I have season tickets 15 rows behind the show that Marty put on for the fans every night. I bring my little brother with me to every single one, not unlike the young Montreal kid at the forum who got to watch his hero. I am eternally grateful for that lucky day in Vancouver all those years ago. If it wasn’t for that day I probably wouldn’t be writing this article right now.

Marty wants to play, and I don’t blame him. It’s all he’s ever done, all he knows. We owe it to him to let him go and do that. This chapter of the story had to come to an end eventually.

I’ll tell my grandkids about No. 30 when they ask why his number hangs in the rafters. Hell, he’s the reason they’re there in the first place.

Thanks for everything, Marty. Happy trails No. 30.

About Nick Nagrowski

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