Forget Ken Dryden. Brodeur was the Guy Lafleur of Mauriac Street. He could stickhandle and shoot better than anybody out there. Goalies were scared of his shot, especially when he picked the corners. Just ask his brother.
"He was talented, the best guy out there," Denis Brodeur Jr. told NHL.com. "I was OK, too, but he was so good with his shooting. His precision was so great."
Martin Brodeur was already playing goalie for his ice hockey team, so getting the chance to play forward with his buddies on the street in the Montreal suburb of St. Leonard was an outlet. It gave him a chance to score goals and set them up. It allowed him to legally hit, and believe Denis when he talks about the intensity in those games.
"It was not full contact, but it was kind of tough," Denis Jr. said. "We weren't kidding around."
The legend of Martin Brodeur, record-setting star goalie for the New Jersey Devils, was born in those games in front of his family's modest house. To understand how “MB30” got to where he is today, you need to know where he came from yesterday.
"My life was going to school, having a snack and going outside to play hockey until dinner time," Brodeur told NHL.com. "I would then do my homework and go back out to play, but only if the Canadiens weren't playing that night. That's what I did every day, whether it was street hockey or pond hockey."
There's a first time for everything
"He was always a good skater when he played forward," Brodeur's father, Denis Brodeur Sr., told NHL.com. "He was good. He used to score three goals a game as a little guy. He was ahead of the other guys."
Brodeur was 7-years-old when he first stood between the pipes.
"Somebody asked me to be a backup goalie on their team, so all year I was playing forward on one team and goalie on another," Brodeur said. "The next thing I knew, I was able to play a little more than the other goalie and I kind of liked it."
He was kind of good at it, too.
"The following year I came to the rink and had my hockey equipment on, not my goalie equipment," Brodeur continued. "The coach asked, 'What do you want to do this year? Do you want to be a goalie or a forward?' I looked around. My mom was not there. My dad was not there. I was 7-years-old, by myself and I went, 'Well, I'll be a goalie.'
"It turns out to probably be the biggest decision I ever made."
Brodeur has been bringing only his goalie equipment to the rink ever since. He would have to save his goal scoring, precise passing and physicality for the street games.
Not a bad way to grow up
"We all took our bikes to downtown Montreal, to the corner of Peel Street and St. Catherine Street, and watched the Stanley Cup get paraded right in front of us," Brodeur said.
For the next seven years, Brodeur's routine stayed pretty much the same.
School. Snack. Hockey. Dinner. Homework. Hockey.
He was a huge Canadiens fan. By the time he was 14, he idolized Patrick Roy.
After the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1986 with a 20-year-old Roy in net, Brodeur, his brother and their friends cut school to go to the parade. They knew dad was going to be there taking pictures, but the risk of getting caught was so worth it.
"Like any kid, my dream was to play in the NHL," Brodeur said. "Seeing our favorite team hoist the Cup in downtown Montreal, that's where everything started for me. To see what Patrick Roy did during the playoffs at such a young age makes you believe you can do it, too."
But before the scouts had a chance to notice him, Brodeur nearly gave up the sport altogether. He was still 14 and, as Denis Sr. explains, his grandmother had just passed away.
"It was on a Friday and Martin had a game to play, so he phoned his coach and said, 'My grandmother died and I won't be at the game,' " Denis Sr. recalled. "He was playing regularly at the time, but after that for three games the guy put him on the bench. He didn't like that. Martin didn't go to the game and instead went to his grandmother's funeral. Martin got so mad that he wanted to quit hockey.
"His oldest brother, Claude, took him by the collar, got him in the car and said, 'You're going to play hockey.' "
"I thank him every day for that," Martin added.
After years of treating hockey as a hobby, it was time to get serious.
A star is born
"I saw him in a game against Laval in Midget AAA and he played really well," Denis Jr. said. "He saw about 40 shots and won the game, 3-2. I said, 'Wow, my brother is playing pretty good. He's a good goalie.' It started from there."
"The following year I came to the rink and had my hockey equipment on, not my goalie equipment. The coach asked, 'What do you want to do this year? Do you want to be a goalie or a forward?' I looked around. My mom was not there. My dad was not there. I was 7-years-old, by myself and I went, 'Well, I'll be a goalie.'"
-- Martin Brodeur
He became one of Canada's best goalie prospects at 16. A year later, he went to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and posted a 23-13-2 record for the Saint-Hyacinthe Laser.
Brodeur was unique. Even though his idol was Roy, who pioneered the butterfly style with goalie coach Francois Allaire, Brodeur was not a typical French-Canadian butterfly goalie. He was a more of a stand-up goalie. He thrived on his reactionary skills.
He was inspired more by Ron Hextall than Roy. He loved how Hextall strayed from the net to play the puck and that he was a goalie who wasn't afraid to use his size to his advantage. He even liked Hextall's mean streak.
The last thing Brodeur wanted to be was a butterfly goalie. Nobody was going to change him, not even Allaire.
"When Martin was playing junior, through his coach he was invited to go to a goaltending school with Francois Allaire," Denis Sr. said. "The first day, I picked him up at 5 o'clock and he said to me, 'I'm not going back.' He said, 'The guy wants to put me in a butterfly and I don't want to be in a butterfly.' That was the first time he really reacted to it. He said, 'I like to play my own style,' and he kept it his whole life."
Denis Jr. said his brother had a temper, kind of like Hextall. He had to learn how to calm down.
"In junior, he was a bit like Billy Smith or Ron Hextall, but he calmed down when he got a little older," Denis Jr. said. "If Sean Avery did what he did last year in junior, I don't know what Marty would have done. Maybe step on him, or hit him with the stick."
A feisty Brodeur was draft eligible after his first season in the QMJHL and was chosen 20th by the Devils. Of course, as you probably already know, Brodeur was the second goalie chosen in the 1990 draft.
The Devils traded the 11th pick to Calgary for No. 20 as well as two second-round picks. The Flames took Trevor Kidd. Montreal, selecting 12th, nabbed right wing Turner Stevenson, who 13 years later won the Stanley Cup with Brodeur in New Jersey.
"I knew most of the guys who were scouting him from my involvement in hockey … but I didn't know the Devils were after Martin," Denis Sr. said. "One day at a game in Three Rivers, (former Devils Director of Player Personnel) Marshall Johnston and I were talking between periods and I said, 'When I take pictures of the Devils, I really like the sweater.' It was the green and red one. He gave me a little smile, a wink, but I didn't think anything of it."
Into the fire
"We were playing Boston and I always remember (former Devils coach) Tom McVie put me on the spot in the morning," Martin Brodeur said. "With his booming voice he said, 'Alright kid, you ready?' "
After three seasons in the QMJHL, a calmer Brodeur was ready to turn pro, except he thought he would be headed to Utica, N.Y., to join the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate.
Not so fast. The Devils needed him in New Jersey.
With both Chris Terreri and Craig Billington injured and unable to play, Brodeur was called up on an emergency basis. Chad Erickson was brought up from Utica, but since Brodeur was still only 19 he could not go to the AHL. In order to keep two goalies in Utica and two in New Jersey, the Devils had to summon for Brodeur from the QMJHL.
He watched his first NHL game from the bench as Erickson beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-3, on March 24. Two nights later, Brodeur made his NHL debut and beat the Boston Bruins, 4-2. He would play in three more games and finished 2-1 with a 3.36 goals-against average.
"You dream about (jumping from junior to the NHL), but a little common sense tells you it doesn't happen," Brodeur said. "The next thing you know I got the call."
Denis Jr. was the only family member who was in the arena for Martin's debut.
"Marty was freaking out and he didn't stop the puck in warm-ups at all, but wouldn’t you know he won his first game," Denis Jr. said. "I saw the first win, and I have to be there when he breaks Patrick's record."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org