An epic battle
Believe it or not, my favorite Marty moment came in a loss, a shock when talking about the man who is on the brink of becoming the goalie with the most wins in NHL history.
It was April 27, 1994 and the New Jersey Devils were playing the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the old "Aud." Win and the Devils would advance to a second-round matchup for the second time in franchise history. Lose, and a Game 7 back at the Meadowlands awaited.
At the time, Brodeur was just 22, with almost no playoff experience behind him.
Yes, he would go on to earn the Calder Trophy as the League's best rookie later that spring, but nobody really knew what to expect in that Game 6. After all, the legendary Dominik Hasek was in the other net and the Aud was as loud as it gets, actually shaking to its foundation.
Yet, there stood Brodeur as cool as a cucumber, forging the first chapter in his playoff legend. That night, he and Hasek traded save for save. For 60 minutes of regulation and then another 60 minutes of OT, neither goalie blinked despite being bone tired.
Into the fourth OT the game went. Having already missed all my deadlines as 1 a.m. approached, I could just sit back and watch the young gun duel the old hand in a battle for the ages. By the way, this was the first NHL playoff game on the road I had ever been assigned to cover.
A little more than five minutes into the fourth OT, it was over in the blink of an eye. Scott Hannan, of all people, lifted a shot over a sprawling Brodeur for a 1-0 victory 125 minutes and 43 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Hasek had to stop all 70 shots he faced to emerge victorious.
I didn't know what to expect when I entered the cramped visitors' room, but surely it had to be devastation. There was Brodeur, laying on a massage table, totally spent, bags under his eyes, struggling to form coherent answers to the questions being lobbed his way.
Certainly, there was no way Brodeur -- or the Devils -- would recover in less than 48 hours to rally and win Game 7, was there?
Well, there was. On April 29, Brodeur was once again brilliant, authoring a dramatic 2-1 victory against Hasek and the Sabres.
In the end, Brodeur's miracle run through the playoffs that year ended one game short of a Stanley Cup Final berth. The Devils lost Game 7 to the hated Rangers in double OT, but Brodeur had delivered a huge down payment on his reputation as a big-game goalie.
Oh yeah, by the way, Brodeur put the loss to the Rangers in that epic Game 7 behind him as well as he went 16-4 in the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs to deliver the franchise its first of three titles in nine seasons.
-- Shawn Roarke
An ovation for the ages
As someone who grew up in Northern New Jersey watching No. 30 in a Devils sweater since he debuted on March 26, 1992 against the Boston Bruins (4-2 win with 24 saves, by the way), you would think one or two of the great moments he's had would stand out above all else.
Things don't always work that way.
My favorite Marty moment has nothing to do with any of the three Stanley Cups, the 100 shutouts, 95 playoff games or four Vezina Trophies he has won. Instead, my favorite Marty moment actually came this past Saturday in Montreal at the end of a regular-season game that was anything but regular.
I was lucky enough to be sent to La Belle Province to cover the record-tying game at the Bell Centre. As the clock ticked down to zero, Brodeur began pumping his fists, he lifted his arms, his teammates charged over to him and Patrik Elias flipped him the puck, but that was all to be expected.
What happened in the crowd was completely spontaneous and amazing.
It's very rare to see a player or team cheered this way in a road building, enemy territory so to speak. Montreal, though, is hardly that for Brodeur. He is a cherished resident there, a hero to some. He grew up in the nearby borough of St. Leonard, roughly a 20-minute drive from where the old Montreal Forum used to be.
They adore him in Montreal. Not as much as they do their beloved Habs, but on this night, Saturday, March 14, 2009, Brodeur might as well have been wearing le bleu, blanc et rouge.
It was one of those crystallizing moments that, once again, made me realize how lucky and privileged I really am to do what I do for a living.
- Dan Rosen
Same ol' Marty
One of the time-honored clichés you hear from hockey players is to never get too high or too low. "Stay on an even keel," is a popular phrase.
In an emotional sport like hockey, that can be a tough task, but if one player has exemplified the philosophy it is Martin Brodeur. In all the years of being around Brodeur after games and practices, I've never heard him snap at anyone or be rude. Good question, bad question, big win, crushing loss, he always has been on an even keel. For a high-profile player, especially in this day and age, that's almost as remarkable an achievement as winning 552 games.
When you win, that can be fun and flattering to be the subject of such scrutiny. But when you lose, especially a big game or playoff series, there is precious little allure to it. But through it all, Brodeur always has been available, affable and informative, making the fans the ultimate beneficiary of his goaltending wisdom.
-- Phil Coffey
Hello, is Marty home?
Before my NHL.com days in 2003, when I was younger and stupider (but not by much compared to now), I somehow stumbled upon Martin Brodeur's cell phone number. Actually, I heard him give it out at an Applebee's in Clifton, memorized it and saved it into my phone. Sad and stalkerish, I know. But if Alex Rodriguez can blame youth and stupidity on steroids when he was 25, I can do the same with this story.
About three months later, Brodeur pitched a shutout in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Ducks while I was in attendance. It made the $300 I spent for upper bowl tickets at Continental Airlines Arena totally worth it. To this day it remains the greatest $300 I have spent on anything in my life.
After a night of celebrating at various North Jersey saloons, my friends and I hit the Lyndhurst Diner. The owner looked just like Lou Lamoriello, and somehow that jogged my memory -- hey, I have Martin Brodeur's cell phone number. Why not give him a call?
Intoxicated on barley, hops and victory (mostly barley and hops), I decided to dial Brodeur's number four hours after he'd won the Cup. Incredibly, he picked up.
"Marty, it's Dave."
"I just wanted to say congratulations. You played a heck of a game tonight."
"OK, go back to celebrating."
"OK. See ya."
-- Dave Lozo
He shoots, he scores
Where to begin? The thing about Brodeur is, he's so modest and affable that nothing he accomplishes on the ice is followed by grandstanding or chest-pumping. All the accolades are met with an "aw-shucks" attitude.
But one of the few times Brodeur showed any real emotion -- which I was glad to see -- came during a game came on April 17, 1997, the night he shot a puck the length of the ice to score in a playoff game. It was Game 1 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Montreal. That Brodeur even attempted the shot, in a postseason game no less, speaks volumes about his confidence in his ability, and there was also an element of daring to it.
When the puck slid into the vacant Montreal net, Brodeur gave a jump and a fist pump. What a way to start the playoffs!
Any goaltender can record a shutout, win a playoff game, even make 75 starts in a season. But to score a goal by shooting the puck? How good is this guy? Twelve years later, we have our answer -- the best of all-time.
What happened in Montreal last weekend was also a pretty special moment, because No. 551 came in Brodeur's hometown and because of the way the crowd applauded him. After all, the turmoil-ravaged Canadiens are in a dogfight for a playoff berth in their Centennial season, and here they are applauding a goaltender who just stole two points from their beloved Habs.
Too cool, just like Brodeur.
-- Rocky Bonanno
Clash of the titans
My dad had season tickets since the team moved to New Jersey from Colorado and we sat in Section 113, Row 13, seats 8 and 9. I was on the aisle and we were the first row above the Zamboni entrance in the end the opposition defended twice. We were surrounded with season ticket-holding pals and met others in the concourse during the intermissions, whom we tailgated with prior to the games.
Two days prior to Christmas in 1996, the Devils and Sabres, featuring two of the best goalies in the League in Brodeur and Dominik Hasek, played. Brodeur had recently bested Hasek in a classic seven-game playoff series in 1994, which featured a Game 6 in which David Hannan scored in the fourth overtime to end a scoreless tie and tie the series, 3-3, only to see New Jersey prevail in Game 7 with Claude Lemieux, a historically clutch player, scoring the game-winning goal.
Even though this Dec. 23, 1996 game wasn't at the time of the season hockey fans salivate for, it was a classic. Brodeur was just 23 and in his fourth full season with the Devils and Hasek was in his fourth season with the Sabres since emerging as one of the best goalies in the League and was in the prime of his career at 31.
The game was a 0-0 tie, but this wasn't a boring, chanceless encounter. In fact, it was quite the contrary there were chances left and right and both goalies exhibited some of -- if not the best -- goaltending I'd ever seen. Each stopped 37 shots in the 65 minutes, high totals since both teams were considered top defensive clubs. But they didn't have their best shutdown games on this night, so the goaltending was more than memorable.
During the ride home, we couldn't stop gushing about both goalies and we knew that this would be a night we would never forget.
-- Adam Schwartz