Brodeur begins his chase of history by donning a new mask; an idea that would leave many goalies shaking in their skates. Goaltenders are -- if nothing else -- a superstitious lot and few could comprehend voluntarily ditching a piece of equipment that has been along for most of the ride to 538 career victories.
Yet, that is exactly what Brodeur has chosen to do, pulling on a new mask – designed by his brother, Denis Jr. – as he closes in on the League wins mark of 551, currently held by Patrick Roy.
So, does Brodeur fear he is inviting the wrath of the hockey gods by switching things up so close to immortality?
“That’s one thing that a lot of people are trying to bring to my attention, but it’s not a big change,” Brodeur told NHL.com Wednesday. “I don’t know if you saw the picture of it. It’s just really the top of my mask. People won’t see (the change) from the stands; just those that are close to me, down on the ice or whatever.”
Still it is a change.
The traditional New Jersey “J” has been replaced by the MB30 logo, designed by Denis Jr., as the logo for the goalie’s new Web site, which launches Friday morning at www.martinbrodeur30.com.
“For me, it is what it is,” Brodeur said. “It was really cool for my brother to be involved. He’s so excited, because he was the one behind getting the whole logo to recognize me. I thought it was great. I never thought twice about it. Like you said, I’m not superstitious. I never thought, ‘Ew, is that going hurt me, you know?”
Very little has hurt Brodeur since he broke into the League as a full-time goalie at the start of the 1993-94 season. He has been among the most consistent goalies the game has ever known, playing 70 or more games in 11 of the past dozen seasons.
But, he doesn’t just show up in the crease every night; he wins far more often than he loses. In the past 12 seasons, Brodeur has won more than 40 games 7 times and is averaging 40.8 wins per season since the start of the 1995-96 season.
At 36, Brodeur is going as strong as ever.
“I think it’s just love of the game,” Brodeur said. “Being with the team, having success together, going through some adversity together and overcoming them; I think (it) is great. I know it's not going to last forever. I realize that. I want to cherish every moment of it.
“Right now I'm 36 years old and I'm really enjoying seeing the kids, seeing the young guys coming in, having their first experience of playing in the NHL, scoring their first goal. I don't know, it's just a fun atmosphere. I know it's going to end soon, so I want to make sure I enjoy every moment of it.”
In the past three seasons, Brodeur has won 135 games and shows no inkling that he will fall off that impressive win rate. That is why few doubt that Brodeur will break Roy’s record for wins relatively early in the 2008-09 season. They also believe, as Brodeur does himself, that the record could be pushed past the 600-win mark before he hangs up the goalie pads for the final time.
And, while Brodeur is trying to savor every minute of this season – and the rest of his career, however long it lasts – his impact on the game of hockey has been so far-reaching that even opponents are amazed by what the New Jersey goalie has accomplished.
Rick DiPietro, the Islanders starting goalie, grew up watching Brodeur and has now played against him the past seven seasons. He says that Brodeur is not only a great hockey player, but among the greatest sportsmen of his generation.
“It's funny, I've had this conversation with a lot of people,” DiPietro said recently. “Within my lifetime you're seeing some of the best athletes of all time. You have Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. And these guys are continuing to make records. We saw Barry Bonds break the home run record. But Marty will go down as possibly the best of all time. He's going to break all the records.
You don’t have to be a goalie, though, to appreciate what Brodeur is doing in his career. Tampa Bay’s Vinny Lecavalier lives to score goals, but Brodeur has denied him that passion more often not.
Yet, Lecavalier has more than just the cursory respect any player of Brodeur’s stature deserves.
“He's been doing great for so long and he's committed to the game,” Lecavalier said. “I'm excited to see him achieve his goals. But I don't think he's all about just the numbers. He's about winning every year. I don't think all of the records matter to him. He just wants to win Stanley Cups and that's why he's a champion.”
And that’s the main reason why Roy’s wins record is just 13 victories away from being tied by Brodeur as the 2008-09 season starts. So, barring something unforeseeable, Brodeur knows he will hold the record for goalie wins in the NHL before this season is too old.
Yet, he says there are no plans on the drawing board yet for the celebration.
"It could happen in a close game, in a blowout game, it could happen in an overtime game, it could happen in a shootout. I don't know how I'm going to react, but I know I'll be really excited." – Martin Brodeur
“Well, I'll be really excited,” he said. “There's no doubt about that. It could happen in a close game, in a blowout game, it could happen in an overtime game, it could happen in a shootout. I don't know how I'm going to react, but I know I'll be really excited.”
Brodeur has never asked much from the hockey gods, other than the chance to play. But, he does have a small request in regard to the manner in which the record might fall this season.
“You know, I never really broke any records at home since I've been playing,” Brodeur said. “Every milestone I got, everything was on the road. Maybe it will be nice to do it at home if I'm able to do that.”
“I think it's something that it happens and you react a certain way. People around you react a certain way. We'll see what it is.”
Judging by Brodeur’s body of work, the wait to see what the reaction is shouldn’t be too taxing.