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Different styles, personalities produce same results

Saturday, 03.14.2009 / 1:00 AM / Brodeur Watch

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

"Brash." "Cocky."
 
Those are just some of the words used to describe Patrick Roy during the Hall of Famer's ascent to being the NHL's all-time winningest goalie.

"Quiet." "Humble." "Affable."

Those are some of the comments used to describe Martin Brodeur, the future Hall of Famer who is poised to tie Roy with 551 career wins Saturday night in Montreal when the New Jersey Devils face the Canadiens.

This clearly is a case of different strokes for different folks and a terrific psychological study. Two men as different in personality as their on-ice playing styles are within a game of being tied for the most wins in NHL history.

Transpose those attributes -- make Roy humble and Brodeur brash -- and we're not having this conversation. The qualities that mark both men are as endemic to their success as their ability to make a quick save or redirect a screaming puck into the corner.

No one ever had to tell Patrick Roy he was a great goaltender. He knew long before the rest of us. "Sedate" wasn't his game. Whether it was winking at an opponent after making a big save or skating the length of the ice to fight Mike Vernon, you knew Roy was in the house.

He once ended a chirping match with Jeremy Roenick by saying, "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."

Or words to that effect.

Feeling hung out to dry by coach Mario Tremblay in a loss to the Red Wings, Roy ambled over to Montreal President Ronald Corey and said it was his last game as a Canadien.

And it was.

The specter of Roy's personality is every bit as important as his talent. Canadiens and then Colorado Avalanche fans loved him. Fans in other NHL cities? Not so much. But with Roy in net, it always was Showtime.

"This is a true story," Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, then an Avalanche assistant, recalled after Roy joined Colorado. "We were sitting on the plane around the All-Star break and there were only a few guys on the plane and they needed a card player. I went back and joined the game so they could fill it out.

"Right in the middle of the game, Patrick says, 'You know Joel, we're going to win the Cup this year.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'We're going to win the Cup.' I looked at him and didn't say another word. He didn't say another word, either. We left it at that. I didn't ask him to explain himself, but we won the Cup, so what can I say? We all believe we're going to win it, but he was saying we would do it."

Roy played 19 seasons with the Canadiens and Avalanche. When he retired in 2003, he left with his place firmly etched in the record books. Roy became the first goalie to play 1,000 games (1,029) and win 500 games (551). He also set playoff goaltending records for games played (247), wins (151) and shutouts (23).

He won three Conn Smythe trophies, three Vezina trophies and five Jennings trophies, and he was named to 11 All-Star Games.

Let's face it -- that's plenty to be cocky about.

But to Roy, it is all window dressing.

"It's the four Stanley Cups," he told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman. "That's what you're playing for. The first one in Montreal will always be very special because that's the one that gave me the start, the confidence."

 
 
Roy announced his retirement May 28, 2003, and during the press conference, he was asked by a reporter if during his career there was any player he feared coming in on a breakaway. As a fitting answer, Roy said, "I would have to be honest with you -- there's none."

That's just so Roy.

But what of Brodeur?

Brodeur is the polar opposite of Roy in terms of personality. Good luck finding anyone around the game not named Sean Avery who has a negative comment on Brodeur. He is normally seen smiling on the ice, occasionally winking, but to a fan or teammate, and piling up wins with a quiet confidence and abundant natural talents that tongue-tie current and former teammates.

"When you think of Marty, you think of this ironman mentality in the way that he has been able to play 70 games a year for mostly his whole career. He put a team on his back and carried them through the Stanley Cup championships and the great regular seasons and the Olympics. You name it, he's done it. It's not so much how he stops the puck; what matters is if he stopped it or not. These are qualities of Hall of Famers. They do it year in and year out for so long."

Roy said that of Brodeur, so you know we're talking about someone special. But the difference is Brodeur is more like an everyman -- he can work the room, and also fit right in.

"The one thing about Marty is he's a good person and he was like that from the first time I played with him in Utica (AHL) until the end," said Corey Schwab, his former backup. "He treated everybody the same. It didn't matter if you were a star player, a rookie or a fourth-liner. He sets the tone with his work ethic and the way he competes and yet he can have a conversation with anybody on the team. That helps the whole team chemistry knowing you can talk to the best goalie in the world about whatever you want."

Brodeur's desire to play as many games as possible may have left his backups over the years idle and angry, but the men who sat while Brodeur played are among his biggest backers.

"He's on the top level of any sport and he has stayed very humble through it all. He's as good a guy off the ice as he is a player on the ice."
-- Ken Daneyko on Martin Brodeur

"Obviously I have the ability to play more, but the reality is look at who my partner is," current backup Kevin Weekes said. "He wants to play, and it's difficult to say he's not playing. That's just the reality of it. He deserves to play given who he is."

The Devils recognized Brodeur's unique demeanor right from the start.

"You hear horror stories about goaltenders, but the thing with Marty is he's probably the most laid back," said Scott Gomez, a Devils teammate for seven seasons who now plays for the cross-river rival Rangers. "He made it easier for a guy like me, a guy that gets ready sort of the same way. It was more relaxed around him."

Ken Daneyko is "Mr. Devil." He played his entire career in New Jersey and was a member of all three Stanley Cup teams backstopped by Brodeur. He told NHL.com's Dan Rosen he appreciates Brodeur even more now than when he played with him.

"He's one of those guys that always appreciated veterans," Daneyko said. "For his status and where he was at, he would always do anything for you. Those are little things, but maybe you take them for granted. I don't know if all the guys in his stratosphere do that all the time. He's like that with all his teammates and his former teammates."

Daneyko used the word humble to describe Brodeur, saying it's as if the guy doesn't even realize who he is, what he has accomplished, and what legendary status he holds in the history of professional sports.

"He's on the top level of any sport and he has stayed very humble through it all," Daneyko said. "He's as good a guy off the ice as he is a player on the ice.

"Now I pinch myself and say, 'I might have played with the greatest ever,'" Daneyko said. "When he's done, he'll sit back, pinch himself and say it humbly to himself, 'Maybe I am the best goalie ever.' Right now he won't, and that's kind of refreshing."


Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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