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Devils, fans salute Brodeur on unforgettable night

by Dan Rosen / New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- They wouldn't let him talk.

For nearly two minutes after Martin Brodeur was introduced to the stage by New Jersey Devils public address announcer Kevin Clark, the fans inside Prudential Center, who came to witness his No. 30 get raised to the rafters, stood and cheered and chanted the legendary goaltender's name.

Brodeur tried to get into his speech. He couldn't. The volume from the 16,514 in the building grew with each passing second. No microphone would have been loud enough.

"I was ready to just go with my speech and 'Doc' [Emrick] said stop a little bit, let this sink in, let them cheer you on," Brodeur said following his jersey retirement ceremony Tuesday. "It was great. The response from the fans was something special for me. I got to know these fans a lot throughout my career and the ovation, I expected it I guess a little bit, but it was pretty overwhelming."

The past four days were overwhelming for Brodeur.

From a ceremonial puck drop on Saturday to community events on Sunday and Monday to his statue unveiling Monday to the ceremony Tuesday, the Devils feted the man forward Patrik Elias, their all-time leading scorer, called "the heart and soul of this organization" with an unforgettable experience befitting his stature here and what he accomplished.

For Brodeur, as he watched his No. 30 go to the rafters while standing in his former crease, on top of a carpet bearing his number, he felt only one thing:

"Closure," he said. "This is it. After that, I'm going to have to beg to get cheered like that."

The Devils helped Brodeur find closure by bringing back a number of his friends and former teammates, including Scott Stevens (4), Ken Daneyko (3) and Scott Niedermayer (27) -- the other three Devils to have their jersey numbers retired.

Daneyko spoke on behalf of the former Devils, singling out Brodeur as the most important player in their history. Elias spoke on behalf of the current Devils players.

Former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who earlier in the day pulled off a nine-player blockbuster trade for his current team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, delivered a speech that had some wit, humor, and a whole lot of humility.

"He was a pure, prototype Devil," Lamoriello said of Brodeur. "What I mean by prototype Devils is that the name in the back of the shirt never got confused with what the logo in the front meant."

Brodeur, who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup three times (1995, 2000, 2003), thanked Lamoriello during his speech, saying, "You made me a champion."

Former coaches Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson were in attendance. Line Burns, wife of the late Pat Burns, received a particularly warm ovation.

Brodeur's long-time goalie coach, Jacques Caron, was the first person introduced by Emrick, the master of ceremonies for the evening.

The Edmonton Oilers, the Devils' opponent Tuesday, came out to their bench to see it play out. They got there in time to watch a near five-minute video tribute, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland over Metallica's "One" and "Hero of the Day." They heard Brodeur's speech and watched No. 30 rise.

"It's a great touch," Brodeur said of the Oilers coming out to see it. "I know as a player if we had a possibility to see something like that happen, I think it's important for young players to see what the history of the game is."

It all meant so much to Brodeur, who, when he was finally allowed to speak, thanked everyone he could think of, from the office staff, the trainers, coaches, management, teammates, friends and family.

He tried his best not to get choked up, but he admittedly did when he spoke in French about his mom, Mireille, who was watching in Montreal, and his late father, Denis.

"I had to say a little word for my mom and dad," Brodeur said. "That's always the toughest part, so I figured I'd throw it in French and it wouldn't be that hard. It was still hard."

Brodeur, though, saved his final thank you for the fans, who chanted his name -- "Marty, Marty, Marty" -- throughout the ceremony.

He has stressed throughout the past four days that he has always felt a special bond with the fans in New Jersey because he feels their relationship is more on a personal level.

"I can't say enough," Brodeur said. "We're not the biggest fan base there is, but I meant it when I said they're one of the greatest just because of how passionate they are. Year in and year out, the same people are there. They add on their kids and it goes on and on. If you go to the markets like Montreal, New York or Toronto, they're so big that you have zero personal touch with their fans. Maybe a couple, the really big fans, but here, it's unbelievable.

"Even today, I was walking around and I recognized people from my playing days that are still there rooting on the new Devils here."

By the end of the ceremony, after the fans chanted "Thank you Marty," after his No. 30 was raised above the home goal, the new protector of the home net at Prudential Center, Cory Schneider, was standing between the pipes, under No. 30, making saves against the Oilers and hearing his name chanted -- "Cory, Cory, Cory."

The torch was passed from Brodeur to Schneider after the 2013-14 season, but the penultimate chapter on an unrepeatable era was written Tuesday. The final chapter will be penned in 2018, when Brodeur likely goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

That weekend will be overwhelming too, but this one will be hard to top.

"It's really special," Brodeur said. "For sure, the feeling of playing and winning I think is going to trump anything, but this was pretty cool."

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