NEWARK, N.J. -- There may not be a better assignment for a lifelong New Jersey Devils fan than sitting down with Martin Brodeur
to discuss how he'll be remembered outside Prudential Center.
That was the job given to New Jersey native and acclaimed abstract steel and bronze sculptor Jon Krawczyk when the Devils commissioned his services to build "The Salute," a larger-than-life Brodeur statue to be unveiled in Newark on Monday.
The tribute is part of a weekend celebration of Brodeur that will culminate with his jersey retirement ceremony Tuesday.
Krawczyk, who draws inspiration from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and David Smith, is no stranger to the Devils. He built the three-story stainless steel skater called "The Iron Man" that has stood outside Prudential Center since 2009.
The native of Boonton Township, N.J., and graduate of Delbarton School in Morristown moved to Malibu, Calif., 16 years ago.
Visions of the Brodeur statue took shape in September and the finished product that is 11-feet tall and weighs just under 1,000 pounds was completed in five months.
"From September until the end of January, I worked constantly for 10-to-12 hours a day, going back and forth with the help of six or eight guys," Krawczyk said. "About 95 percent of my artwork is not realistic but very abstract, and I use different shapes and use stainless steel or bronze to try and make it something unique and special."
Krawczyk, 45, met with Brodeur in St. Louis prior to starting the project and reviewed countless photographs in an effort to find a pose that the record-setting goaltender would appreciate most. It was special for Krawczyk to be able to sit down with Brodeur for that hour and discuss the project.
"The Devils really wanted an image of his face to show that it is Marty but how do you get a goalie, with all his gear, showing his face?" Krawczyk said. "I went over tons of images with Marty, but finally he told me of a picture one of his buddies had sent from a game that I also thought was cool. That's the pose we ended up using."
The Brodeur statue is cast out of bronze and is complete with his helmet, stick, pads, glove, blocker, skates and even the straps on his back. Krawczyk used something similar to a mannequin on which to attach the equipment before working with the clay.
"In order to cast, you need to use clay and then you make a mold out of that and then pour the material so we used as much of the real stuff as we could," Krawczyk said. "The only difficult part was where his skin was showing, the face and hair. But that's where the real magic is because it's the detail that will make this statue so incredible."
Krawczyk said this type of project would normally take him 6-to-8 months to complete, but since details weren't finalized until September it was made a priority.
"We basically pulled off a miracle," he said. "It was nerve-racking, but I think the finished product is amazing. We got details on it where there's stitching on the lettering, the numbers and gloves. When people see this, they're going to be excited."
Encased inside the statue are time capsules submitted by six Devils fans who each had their personal memories chosen from more than 500 entries. Those six fans are scheduled to be on hand at the unveiling of "The Salute."
Krawczyk said he has attended more than 300 Devils games. While attending Connecticut College, where he majored in economics and art history and minored in art, he would listen to every game on the radio or record the games on television to view later.
"I was so honored to do this; Broduer is the best goalie who ever lived," he said. "He changed the game and the rules with the trapezoid behind the net.
"There have been memorable pieces I've done in my career, like the '9/11 Cross' at Ground Zero, but both Devils projects and particularly this Brodeur piece have been amazing."
The "9/11 Cross," which is 14-feet tall and hangs outside St. Peter's Church in New York City, was welded from fragments obtained from the World Trade Center rubble.
Krawczyk left his Malibu studio Monday with the Brodeur statue to begin the four-day cross-country journey to visit his mom and sister in Boonton on Thursday before reaching Prudential Center on Friday.
"I have a flatbed truck with a trailer on the back and we'll crate, pack and wrap the statue so no one will know what's underneath," he said. "It will be transported incognito, so to speak. I flew my nephew from Jersey to Malibu to make the trip with me to keep me company. I needed an extra hand for this job and he's also a huge Devils fan."
Brodeur is certainly looking forward to seeing the finished project. He is the first Devils player to have a statue built in his honor.
"I was really surprised when they came up with the idea of having a statue; it's something I never thought about," Brodeur told Matt Loughlin of WFAN Sports Radio. "The process with [Krawczyk] has been great. We came up with something that would, first, look like me and, second, would symbolize some of the things I've done in my career.
"We came up with a salute type of pose; just the way in which I always used to salute the fans after getting star of the game or after setting a record. I felt that was the right thing to do."