Saluting my Favorite Player, the Greatest Goalie of All Time
This time of year means that Spring has sprung, the daylight lasts longer, and the warm weather is finally here. For me, it also means Hockey’s regular season is coming to an end, and I start looking forward to Hockey’s “second season” … the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time of year usually meant, my beloved team, the New Jersey Devils, are jockeying for playoff position, watching the other teams trying to get in, or anticipating which team we’ll match up best against in the first round. Unfortunately, the Devils have had some ups-and-downs the past few years, where they have missed the playoffs completely, mixed in with an unprecedented run to the Stanley Cup Finals 2 years ago, falling in 6 games to the LA Kings.
Throughout the last 20 years, I’ve been a fan of the New Jersey Devils, mainly for one reason: Martin Brodeur.
I became a fan his rookie year in the league, as I marveled at how amazing he played Goalie, taking the Devils from a “Mickey Mouse Organization“, to one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals… losing to the New York Rangers in a Double Overtime, Game 7 Conference Final. Brodeur was a 20th pick overall in the 1990 draft, not expected to make the kind of impact he did, but I felt there was something special worth watching.
While he proved his abilities each game with spectacular, jaw-dropping saves, over the years it became more apparent to the hockey world thru his durability in playing more games than all goaltenders, the accumulation of his 3 Stanley Cups (and 2 additional Finals appearances), and the eventuality of owning just about EVERY Goaltending record in the NHL. Not just BARELY owning these records, but pretty much running away with them where it’s inconceivable that another Goalie will ever be able to catch him. Even having the most goals scored by a goalie, including one in the playoffs on an empty net.
“Marty” as the fans came to know call him, has been the face of the franchise since 1991, bringing new-found respect and fans in a market traditionally dominated by the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Islanders. His friendly, joking, nonchalant demeanor made it easy to like him, and harder for opponents and their fans to hate him, if only due to them being shut down by his game play.
Today marks the beginning of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Usually, this time of year I’m filled with excitement, nervousness, anticipation, hopefulness. But with the Devils narrowly missing a final push to make the cut, it’s just simply disappointment.
Two days prior, I watched as Martin Brodeur likely played his last game… at least as a New Jersey Devil. Coming up to his 42nd Birthday on May 6th, it is assumed to be his last for a team that has greatly appreciated everything he has done for them, but has slowly weened off him handling the major duties in net.
Watching Sunday, as he played the same team he played in his first ever NHL game, the Boston Bruins (both wins), I couldn’t help but become introspective of all the enjoyment it brought me, and the comfort of my traditions the past 20 years. The friends that know me well, realize that the one thing that makes me emotional, for good or bad, is the Devils. While I would hope for his career to end on a more bittersweet note, such as walking away from the game after winning a final Stanley Cup, that would be greedily asking for yet another incredible chapter in an already thick book.
While there’s always the slightest chance of Brodeur remaining in some capacity as a goalie for the Devils next season, like every Hockey fan knows, there are major ebbs and flows, ups and downs, to being a fan of your team or a particular player for that team.
Sunday night, I decided to wear my raggedy old blue T-Shirt, reserved only to wear under my Brodeur jersey for every Devils playoff game. And after the game, per tradition, I neatly folded it to put back in the drawer until next year’s playoffs.
Brodeur’s Post-Game Videos: