Martin Brodeur, who led the Devils to three Stanley Cup wins, will be honored tonight.
Martin Brodeur’s name doesn’t get mentioned often enough with the top area athletes of the last 25 years.
But he should be listed right there with Hall of Fame-caliber or championship-winning contemporaries Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch, Eli Manning, Mike Piazza, Patrick Ewing and a few others.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner will cap a four-day celebration of his illustrious career in New Jersey when his No. 30 jersey fittingly is retired by the Devils before their game Tuesday night against Edmonton in Newark.
“It’s a little different. It’s like the ‘I’ instead of the ‘we,’ and I have to switch that up (Tuesday). But I feel like my success came from being a team player and being part of an organization that always put the team first,” Brodeur said at an afternoon press conference at Prudential Center on Tuesday. “I feel this is not just for me, but the fans, the organization, we’re all a part of this celebration.
“I want to make sure everybody understands who was important to me. You guys are so good with social media now, I was thinking what can I surprise them with (in my speech)? I came up with nothing.
“The fans, throughout my career, we’ve had that special relationship; these guys were there my rookie year to the last game I played. My first game, some guys were two years old and now they’re 25…It’s not the biggest fan base, but it’s one of the best ones, because it’s really personable.”
The list of accomplishments for Brodeur, 43, over 21 seasons as a goaltender with the Devils – not to mention a just-not-right seven games for St. Louis at the end of the career – is mindboggling.
The Devils’ first-round pick in 1990 (20th overall) out of the Hacynthe Lasers of the Quebec Major Junior League, Brodeur went on to become the NHL’s all-time leader in wins (691) and shutouts (125).
As for hardware, Brodeur won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1993-94, and then copped three Vezina Trophies as the league’s top goalie, plus five other top-3 finishes in the voting.
And in leading the Devils to championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003 – plus two additional trips to the Stanley Cup Final – Brodeur finished behind only four-time champ Patrick Roy in postseason victories with 96. The Montreal native also won two Olympic Gold medals for Canada and even holds the NHL record for goals scored by a goaltender, with three.
Martin Brodeur with the three Stanley Cup banners when it was first announced last October that the Devils would retire his No. 30.
He is every bit the face of the Devils as Jeter and Rivera and Joe Torre were with the championship Yankees over the past two decades.
“I stayed the longest, I guess, so I get the title. It’s overwhelming for me. I’m just a kid from Montreal that loved playing hockey. I came into a great organization and got success early in my career … If I’m the face, I’ll take it, and the statue will be there so people will remember it,” said Brodeur, who currently is an assistant GM with the Blues. “When I came to New Jersey, for 10-15 years there was not one name up in the rafters. But we started something good.”
As he mentioned, in addition to his jersey retirement – alongside Devils teammates Ken Daneyko (3), Scott Stevens (4) and Scott Niedermayer (27) – the team also commissioned an 11-foot statue of Brodeur, which was unveiled at a separate ceremony on Monday night.
Created by sculptor John Krawczyk – a Jersey native and avid Devils fan – the work is entitled “The Salute,” depicting the goalie raising his stick and winking to acknowledge the fans after a victory. Following some renovation around Prudential Center, the statue eventually will be placed at the corner of Lafayette St. and Mulberry St. in what is called Championship Plaza outside the arena.
“I look fit, so that’s good,” Brodeur joked. “As a goalie, if you don’t have (winning) as a motto, you’re in trouble. Who cares how many goals against get scored, at the end of the day it’s about how many wins you get.
“So when we picked the pose for the statue, it was about winning. Because I don’t salute anybody when I lose, I just go back to my locker room and feel shame.”
That last joke, of course, was a reference to a line from French-Canadian goalie Denis Lemieux in the hockey film “Slap Shot.”
Longtime Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, who pulled off a blockbuster trade for Toronto with Ottawa involving Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf earlier in the day, will be in attendance for the ceremony, as will former coach Jacques Lemaire and several former teammates.
Brodeur’s four sons – including 2013 Devils draft pick and goalie Anthony – and daughter also will be there, although his father – longtime Montreal Canadiens photographer Denis Brodeur – died in 2013.
“I think he’d be everywhere, he’d be so excited to be here,” Martin Brodeur said. “We had a great relationship, so it’s definitely sad that he’s not here with us. But I’m sure he’s at a place right now that he’s enjoying this and he’s really proud of everything I accomplished.”
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