NEWARK, N.J. — Transporting Martin Brodeur from a television studio at the Prudential Center to a third-floor conference room takes four New Jersey Devils officials, two husky security guards and the occasional push from a reporter. Throngs of fans, realizing that the winningest goaltender of all-time is walking the concourses on a sunny Saturday afternoon, forced their way to get a piece of him.
Safely in the elevator, Brodeur had a moment to relax and reflect. On Tuesday, Brodeur, now the assistant general manager for the St. Louis Blues, had his No. 30 retired in the Prudential Center rafters, the final tribute after 691 wins, 125 shutouts and three Stanley Cups victories.
“It gives you the opportunity to draw back on your past and relive what happened,” Brodeur told SI.com.
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The Montreal native has done everything a goalie can do in hockey, winning nearly every trophy available, often multiple times.
The one thing he didn’t do was finish his career in Jersey. The 43-year-old Brodeur joined the Blues last season and played seven games there, winning three. Soon after he officially retired, he joined the front office, where he assists GM Doug Armstrong in scouting. The future Hall-of-Famer admits that while it’s too soon for him to be a general manager, it is something on his radar (although he did tell his bosses he won’t be filing any scouting reports this weekend).
Yet for four days in February, it’s like Brodeur never left. When he dropped the ceremonial puck before Saturday’s game against the Capitals, the 16,514 fans in attendance roared like he was king.
And when Brodeur, finally in that third-floor conference room, called Caitlin Jackson of Bloomfield, N.J., to inform her that she won a ticket to his retirement ceremony, all she could say was, “Oh my God!” over and over.
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And when he came out for his ceremony on Tuesday, after 50 minutes of introductions and video, it was so loud that when he started to speak, his words were drowned out by 21 years of love, adoration and gratitude. All he could do was step back and give a thumbs-up and a wave.
“I had a blast,” Brodeur said as he stood in front of a giant carved out “30” structure with a replica of his Sher-Wood stick draped in front, the podium he spoke from surrounded by life-size pucks with some of his records taped around the side.
Brodeur is royalty in the Garden State, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him meander through the Prudential Center concourses. He’s relaxed in his post-playing days, although he was never stressed during them. This is a goalie that used to drink Sprite in between periods. This is a goalie that said he’d rather play with his “spirit” than his technique, eschewing the now-standard butterfly style for his unique way of flopping, flapping, stacking his pads together, doing anything to stop a shot. This is a goalie that played the puck so well that the league created a trapezoid to prevent him (and others) from moving it up ice. This is a goalie that watched his players during shootouts because he liked to see what they would do, not like some who “are so nervous they bury their heads down.”
He’s certainly calm now, relishing his dual, contradictory role as King of New Jersey and worker bee in St. Louis. He took a look at Devils left winger Mike Cammalleri’s injured right hand and laughed, saying “that’s hockey,” and motioned up and down to show off his injury-free frame. He took delight as he greeted Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, sporting an unfamiliar red uniform, with his brother-in-law. Brodeur is like a childhood best friend who moved away and is back visiting.
Brodeur’s ceremony brought the best of the good ol’ days, links to a past that seem further and further away now. There was Jacques Lemaire and Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer and Larry Robinson, the players clad in their Devils white, each receiving deafening cheers from the crowd. This night was about Brodeur, yes, the “MAR-TY, MAR-TY” chants ringing throughout the area early and often, but it was about ’90s too, that time in Devils history when playoffs were a given, Hall-of-Famers were made and Cups won. Those times are gone. Tuesday was the reunion.
1 of 27
Goaltending came naturally to Brodeur, whose father, Denis, played the position on the Canadian Olympic team that won the bronze medal in 1956. Raised in Montreal, Martin played forward as a kid—sewing the seeds of the stickhandling skills that would serve him so well in the NHL—before switching to goal at age seven. Though he idolized butterfly master Patrick Roy, Brodeur chose a standup style and developed superb mobility, instincts, positioning and puck-handling ability.
Photo: Courtesy of Denis Brodeur
Drafted out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by the Devils with the 20th pick in the 1990 draft, Brodeur made his NHL debut on March 26, 1992, with 24 saves in a 4-2 win over Boston.
Photo: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
After a full season in the AHL, Brodeur was added to the Devils' opening night roster for the 1993-94 season and went on to win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year with a 27-11-8 record, 2.40 GAA and three shutouts, the first of his career coming on Oct. 20, 1993 vs. Anaheim.
Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images
As the Devils' new starting goalie, Brodeur played in 40 of their 48 games during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, going 19-11-6 with a 2.44 GAA. He was brilliant in the playoffs, holding Detroit to only seven goals in four finals games as the Devils won their first Stanley Cup.
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
During the 1995-96 season, Brodeur went 34-30-12 with a 2.34 GAA and .911 save percentage, beginning a record streak of 12 consecutive seasons of 30 or more wins, a run that included seven with 40 or more.
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
Blessed with a stifling defense in front of him, Brodeur led the NHL with a 1.88 GAA in 1996-97—becoming the first goaltender with a sub-1.90 since Bernie Parent of the Flyers in 1973-74. He also became the first since Montreal's Ken Dryden in 1976-77 to record 10 shutouts in a season.
Photo: Tim DeFrisco/SI
In Game 1 of the 1997 Eastern quarterfinals vs. Montreal, Brodeur joined Philadelphia's Ron Hextall as the only goaltenders to score in the postseason by shooting the puck into the net. Brodeur's prowess with the stick and fondness for roaming from his crease to play the puck led to the current "Brodeur Rule" that confines such activity by goalies to a trapezoid that is eight feet out from each goal post and 28 feet wide at the boards behind the net.
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
In 1997-98, Brodeur led the NHL with 43 wins and posted 10 shutouts for the second straight season. He also became only the third goaltender (along with Hall of Famers Terry Sawchuk and Harry Lumley) to have back-to-back sub-2.00 GAA campaigns.
Photo: Peter Gregoire/SI
Again leading the NHL with 43 wins in 1999-2000 and tying Bernie Parent's combined mark of 59 combined regular- and postseason victories, Brodeur backstopped the Devils to their second Stanley Cup, which they won by beating the Dallas Stars in six games.
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
Seeking a repeat, Brodeur faced his childhood hero Patrick Roy in a memorable 2001 Stanley Cup Final, won by Colorado in seven games after the Avalanche rose from a three-games-to-two deficit. Roy denied the Devils a chance to win the Cup on home ice with a 4-0 win in Game 6, then completed the comeback with a 3-1 win in Colorado.
Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Leading the NHL with 73 appearances in 2001-02, Brodeur became the third-fastest goaltender to reach 300 career wins when he beat Ottawa 2-0 on Dec. 15, 2001.
Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/AP
Like his father, Martin has represented Canada in international play, most notably winning the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City after posting a 4-0-1 mark with a 1.80 GAA in the tournament. It was the second of his four Olympic stints (he did not see action in 1998). He was also a member of Canada's 1996 and 2005 World Championship teams and '97 and '05 World Cup teams.
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
Brodeur, seen here with sons Jeremy, Anthony and William, won his first Vezina Trophy for a 2002-03 campaign in which he became the first NHL netminder to have four 40-win seasons (surpassing Sawchuk and Jacques Plante). He was a complete miser in the postseason, setting an NHL mark of seven shutouts, including three vs. Anaheim in the finals, as the Devils won their third Stanley Cup.
Photo: Kevin Frayer/AP
Setting a single-season record of 48 wins in 2006-07, Brodeur won his third Vezina while also posting 12 shutouts.
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
On Nov. 17, 2007, Brodeur beat Philadelphia 6-2 to join Patrick Roy as the only members of the NHL's 500-wins club. His overall mark of 44-27-0-6, 2.17 GAA and four shutouts earned him his fourth Vezina in five seasons.
Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
Again playing a role in the creation of a rule, Brodeur saw his rivalry with Sean Avery bubble over in Game 3 of the 2008 Eastern quarterfinal when the Rangers agitator stood waving his stick in the goaltender's face—this after Avery's two interference penalties in the series. The NHL was moved to instantly invoke an "Avery Rule" prohibiting such antics. After the Rangers eliminated the Devils in five games, Brodeur snubbed Avery in the handshake line, leading Avery to famously remark "I guess fatso forgot to shake my hand."
Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI; Bill Kostroun/AP
With anticipation building for his assault on Roy's career wins mark, Brodeur suffered a tear of the biceps tendon in his left elbow on Nov. 1, 2008, ending his streak of 70-plus-game seasons at 10. Returning to action on Feb. 26, 2009, he picked up where he left off with a 4-0 shutout of Colorado in which he made 24 saves.
Photo: Lou Capozzola/SI
Brodeur joined Patrick Roy atop the NHL's victories list with a 3-1 win over the Canadiens on March 14, 2009. The night was made even sweeter because it came in Montreal, with his father (pictured w/camera) and Roy looking on, the banner bearing the former Canadien's recently-retired number (33) hanging over him, and the sell-out crowd chanting Brodeur's name.
Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images; Paul Chiasson/AP
Brodeur broke Patrick Roy's career record for goaltending victories, picking up his 552nd by turning back 30 shots in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on March 17, 2009. The victory came in Brodeur's 987th game of a 22-year career he played almost entirely with the Devils. In the spirit of March Madness, Brodeur took out a pair of scissors and cut the net. ''It's definitely harder than I thought,'' he quipped. ''These basketball players, it's only a little net. This was a big net. I had help from a couple of my teammates.''
Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP
On December 12, 2009 Brodeur reached yet another milestone when he shuts out Penguins 4-0, breaking Terry Sawchuk’s career NHL shutout record of 103. Nine days later the Devils legend blanked the Pens yet again to shatter George Hainsworth’s pro record of 104 pails of whitewash.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images
By blanking the Thrashers 3-0 at the Philips Center in Atlanta on April 6, 2010, Brodeur became the first NHL goalie to reach the 600-wins mark. The victory, his league-leading 43rd of the season, also extended his career shutout mark to 110.
Photo: Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images
Coming off his 14th and final 30-win regular season, Brodeur blanked the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 4 the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 19 to break Patrick Roy's career postseason shutout mark (23) and become only the second goaltender to reach 100 playoff wins.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
On May 25, 2012, the Devils beat the Rangers 3–2 thanks to Adam Henrique's goal in overtime, sending Brodeur to his fifth Stanley Cup finals appearance. New Jersey lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games in what would turn out to be the 17th and final postseason of his career.
Photo: Rich Kane/Icon SMI
After missing a month of action due to a nerve injury in his back, Brodeur returned to the net on March 21, 2013 with some of his old stick magic, scoring a power play goal against the Carolina Hurricanes that made him the only NHL goalie to record three career tallies, and the second after Evgeni Nabokov of the Sharks to light the lamp with the man advantage.
Photo: Gerry Broome/AP
After defeating Blue Jackets goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky in an online vote in June 2013, Brodeur won the honor of being the cover athlete on EA's NHL 14 video game.
Photo: Courtesy of EA Sports
After the Devils acquired the 208th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft from the Kings, Brodeur was given the very special privilege of making the announcement that New Jersey had selected his son, Anthony, 18, a goalie out of Minnesota's Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school, in the seventh and final round.
Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Unsigned as a free agent, Brodeur inked a one-year, $700,000 deal with the injury-plagued St. Louis Blues on Dec. 2, 2014. He concluded his legendary career with seven appearances, a 3-3-0 record, .899 save percentage and 2.87 GAA. On Jan. 29, 2015, he announced his retirement as the NHL's all-time leader in games played by a goalie (1,266), saves (28,928), wins (691), shutouts (125), and playoff shutouts (24).
Photo: David E. Klutho/SI
Martin Brodeur Through the Years
The winningest goaltender of all-time ended his ceremony speaking to his family in his native French, thanking his teammates and fans and watching from the goal crease as his banner was slowly raised to the rafters, joining Daneyko, Niedermayer and Stevens in that hallowed air.
“I value and I cherish the relationship I had with you guys and I’ll remember it forever,” Brodeur said. “Thank you for all the ‘Marty’s Better’ chants.”
Brodeur exchanged red for blue, but his heart remains in Jersey. On Saturday, before the hoopla really started, Brodeur took one last chance to put it in perspective.
“There’s so many people who were part of my career throughout the years,” Brodeur said. “Most of them will be here. I’ve made countless friends. I’ve seen fans when they were three years old and now they are 23. We won together. It’s going to be an emotional night.”