Every new season brings with it a list of approaching milestones, special marks deserving of recognition from the hockey community.
But the marks Martin Brodeur
is approaching in 2008-09 are almost surreal causes for celebration. Consider what's within reach:
* With his 14th win this season, Brodeur will surpass Hall of Famer Patrick Roy
as the NHL's all-time winningest goalie with 552.
* Eight shutouts will see Brodeur break the all-time shutout mark of 103, currently held by another Hall of Famer. Terry Sawchuk
Brodeur, whose carefree approach to the game belies that of the stereotypical goalie, does admit that he thinks about surpassing these lofty milestones.
"Yeah, I think about it," Brodeur said. "I think that's going to be one of the things that I'll be really excited about. You know, winning the most games is what it's all about. When you're playing hockey, you play to win. For a goalie, it's a beautiful thing because when you win everybody's happy around you. So it's not a selfish thing. It's like, well, you scored 500 goals or whatever. For a goalie, it's all about wins.
"And so when I will hit that record, if I do, it's going to be quite an accomplishment. But I've been playing a lot of years, playing a lot of hockey, a lot of games, to be able to get close to Patrick. And I think it's to his credit for him to be able to push that record so high. And it will be definitely a tough one to reach."
The hockey gods would have to come up with quite the conspiracy to deny Brodeur, whose career has been built around durability and winning. Brodeur has played in 70 or more games in 11 of the past dozen seasons. During the same span, Brodeur has won 40-plus games seven times. Since 1995-96, Brodeur has averaged 40.8 wins.
"I think it's going to be a great accomplishment," Brodeur said of surpassing Roy. "I think you don't play hockey for individual things. I think when you play hockey it's all about Stanley Cups, about winning championships and that's what drives you to have that feeling. It's a team sport. So when you do win together, you know it's a fun feeling when you help each other out through a long battle. And that's, really, for me, it's what hockey's all about. … It will be an unbelievable number, actually, but it stays there. I'm not looking to win only 552 games. There will be a lot more to win if I want to continue playing in the NHL.
"It's been a great ride," Brodeur said of a career that has produced three Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal. "Playing for one organization, being so successful as a team, as an organization, and what, every year, we try to accomplish. … Last year was our 11th straight time in the playoffs. We only missed the playoffs, since I've been there, once. That's what you play hockey for. We have a chance to win every day.
"And for me it's all the great people I met through this organization -- (Doug) Gilmour, (Alex) Mogilny, (Slava) Fetisov, Scott Stevens
, and Scott Niedermayer
, Ken Daneyko, and I’m missing tons of other guys. ... You don't forget these things. My family is in New Jersey. My kids were all born in New Jersey. They all play hockey. The kids are in school in New Jersey, they’re Americans. And for me just to have that kind of life coming in from Saint Leonard outside of Montreal, now for me I'm like an American. So it's awesome. And at the same time, I was able to keep all the ties to Canada with playing in the last three Olympics and some World Championships and the World Cup. So the best of both worlds. And my career has been unbelievable."
Few will argue the point.
The Hitchcock Dictionary
-- Michael Arace of the Columbus Post Dispatch has a great read last week when he compiled the "Hitchionary," an abridged collection of the words of Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.
Here are a couple examples courtesy of Arace.
-- It is not on the list of the 500 most-used words in the English language, but it is in Hitchcock's top two, ranking only behind "the." According to the Hitchcock ethos, to compete is the greatest virtue. A fourth-line winger who competes is held in great esteem, but a sublimely skilled scorer is nothing if he is not "engaged." And a player who takes a bad penalty is not lame-brained, he lacks "competitive composure."
-- This does not refer to Grant Fuhr
's training-camp weigh-in. Heavy is good. A heavy player is one who has a notably positive impact on a game. A heavy player is a one who draws notice. A Gordie Howe
hat trick -- goal, assist, fight -- is intrinsically heavy.
-- The intricacies of "leadership and followship" are at the heart of Hitchcock's professional quest. It is why he studies the Civil War. Why do soldiers charge over a wall to face a fusillade they know is coming? Who and what compels them? On the ultimate Hitchcock team, there are a few lieutenants in the locker room who can lead a company off the bench and into the heat of heavy competition. The rank and file will follow, and engage, out of duty to their brethren -- even if they hate the general.
-- On the bench, this is Hitchcock's clarion call after every turnover (outside some other, heavier words).
-- The NHL has been getting some positive pub in various business publications of late from both a league and team perspective.
One of the team success stories is in Chicago, where the Blackhawks under Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough have refurbished the team's image in a huge way.
McDonough was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. Here are some excerpts:
-- What did you learn from your experience with the Cubs that you brought to the Blackhawks?
-- Never to accept conformity, never to be satisfied with what preceded you, to be inventive, to be creative, to do things differently.
-- When Rocky Wirtz was wooing you, you had a coffee that became lunch and almost dinner. What did you want to hear?
-- The first thing I wanted was something to eat, because I didn't anticipate this was really going to be an interview.
He would say things [like] winning is of paramount importance, nobody is sacred, we're going to have the resources to win, we want to bring the Blackhawks back to prominence. It was about four or five days of tears and gnashing of teeth. I think I made a great decision.
Did you set any conditions, such as, "I want to see the games on television?"
-- Without that, in my opinion, we had no chance. I gave him a list of things I thought were critical. There had to be structure. There had to be an ambitious approach.
I walked in on day one and there was no receptionist. Then I said to somebody, I want to see the director of human resources. We don't have a director of human resources. People say, "Did you start from scratch?" Whatever it is before scratch, that's where we started.
-- After you arrived, you described Hawks fans as "furious." What was wrong?
"When you're playing hockey, you play to win. For a goalie, it's a beautiful thing because when you win everybody's happy around you. So it's not a selfish thing. It's like, well, you scored 500 goals or whatever. For a goalie, it's all about wins." – Martin Brodeur
-- We were at odds with our fans. We were at odds with our former players. We were at odds with former broadcasters.
Coming from the Cubs, one thing that we took great pride in is our relationship with [former players] Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins. It was important to have our fans see that we had a good relationship with the great players that played a huge part of their youth.
Bringing Bobby Hull
back was job No. 1 for me. It was a very difficult two-hour discussion I had with Bobby. It was direct. At some point it was profane. I think it was emotional. He had to say these things, I had to hear them. Because it was a 37-year estrangement. [Later], he said, "I want to come back." Stan (Mikita) and Tony (Esposito) came back later.
-- You had attendance of 18,000-plus for a preseason game. How did you do that?
-- I saw too many empty seats. I'm not used to empty seats and I don't like it. I don't want us to get comfortable that we had 18,000 tickets sold but most didn't show up. I think virtually every game this year we'll be playing in front of a full house. They don't call this the Madhouse on Madison for nothing.
"C" you around
-- Leadership isn't defined by the ability to speak with a referee during a game, so if you are the Vancouver Canucks
and Roberto Luongo
is your guy, then Luongo not being able to wear a "C" on his jersey is no big deal.
"The two things that Roberto can't do is A - have a C on his sweater, and the second one, he mentioned it to us yesterday, he can't take the ceremonial faceoff for a special event," coach Alain Vigneault
said. "That being said we can name him captain and in my mind and in (GM) Mike's (Gillis) mind it's the right thing to do, whether it be unusual or not."
"This is a tremendous honor and I'm really looking forward to the challenge," said Luongo during a Tuesday press conference where he was named captain. "I think I'm ready and it's something that excites me and I'm ready for that responsibility. I feel that even though last year I didn't have a letter, I was part of the leadership group with all these guys up here with me and a lot of other guys that are in the dressing room, so it's just an honor to be asked that question so I didn't take any time answering."
No one can question Luongo's belief that he already was a part of the Canucks' leadership group. If nothing else, his on-ice performances justified such a designation.
On the ice, the Canucks wearing the "A" as alternate captains are defensemen Willie Mitchell
and Mattias Ohlund
and forward Ryan Kesler
"None of these players that are in front of you today need a letter to lead, they've been doing that since the beginning of training camp," coach Alain Vigneault
said during the presser. "None of these four individuals in front of you had letters last year and they were doing a great job leading.
"I really feel that it's their opportunity right now to impact the culture of our dressing room, they've been doing that since the beginning of camp and I'm confident that each one of these guys will do that as the season moves forward."
"Roberto, whether he's been wearing a C or not, has been a big part of our team," Ohlund said. "He's not like most goaltenders, he's very vocal, he takes charge and for us it makes sense to have him being the captain. Obviously the three of us, and other guys too, are going to have to help him and make sure it's a team thing."
Ice Age housekeeping
-- The weekly mailbag will return next week. Remember, if you have a question, a gripe, a comment or just want to talk some hockey, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look forward to hearing from you.