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Caron's bond with Brodeur endures through the years

by Dan Rosen
Jacques Caron has had the best job security in the entire hockey universe over the past 15 and a half years.

Caron, you see, is Marty's guy, and nobody messes with Marty's guy.

"He's like a second dad to me," Martin Brodeur told "I'm with him all the time."

Since Brodeur became a full-time goalie at the start of the 1993-94 season, Caron has been the Devils' goaltending coach. In that span, the Devils have had eight different head coaches and 10 other goalies have worn the sweater, but the goalie coach and his student are the constants you rarely find in today's era of mercenary athletes and transitory coaches.

Caron is a French-Canadian goalie, just like Brodeur. The indomitable duo always has had a unique relationship. In fact, they sometimes act as if they're in their own world, speaking French to one another during practices or video sessions, which they still hold hours before every game.

Caron has become close with Brodeur's entire family. He calls his father, Denis Brodeur, Sr., a former goalie on the 1956 Canadian Olympic team, "a great friend of mine also."

He says "also" because, first and foremost, he and Martin Brodeur are friends. The coaching comes easily when the relationship is strong.

"He's like a son to me," Caron told "I care for him, and not just in hockey. I care about his family and how he thinks all the time.

"You could call me his mentor or whatever you want, but it takes two to succeed like that," Caron continued. "For him to carry on after 16 years insisting that what I say to him he always try to do it, it's amazing. A superstar, or whatever you want to call him, sometimes could get a big head, but it never happened with him."

Ever since Brodeur started his chase at history, the topic of his unique, hybrid style of goaltending has become a burgeoning story. Since the Devils rarely, if ever, grant reporters access to assistant coaches, Caron's chapter remains, for the most part, untold.

But Caron has more to do with Brodeur's on-ice success than anyone else.

"He has really helped me out with my career tremendously," Brodeur said. "My dad can't be there every day for me. He lives in Montreal. Jacques has always been there, supporting me and backing me up in anything. He is the only one who has stayed through all the coaching changes. That's because of us, not just me. It just clicked."

It was Caron who helped mold Brodeur into the stand-up, free skating, mobile goalie that defines his greatness. Brodeur already had those traits, but Caron, who is staunchly against the butterfly, said he had to bring out Brodeur's raw athleticism and rid him of some lingering butterfly habits that may have developed over time.

"When I saw him 16 years ago, he was a typical Quebec goaltender and we made him an all-around goaltender because he was hurt the first two years," Caron said. "He had an operation on both of his knees by playing wide. We rectified that by giving him more mobility, playing closer and as an all-around goaltender. He said if it makes me better and can play a long time then let's do it, and we did it."

One of Caron's earliest messages to Brodeur was, “Don't guess, react.”

Brodeur credits a lot of his success to his ability to anticipate and react.

"He knows all the players in the League ... anticipation becomes so easy for him," Caron said. "Every night you see him making those great saves and it's not guessing. I told Marty years ago that guessing and anticipating are two different things. (If you're) guessing, some nights you'll guess right. Anticipation, you'll play very steady. That's what he's been doing all these years."

Caron calls his job easy because Brodeur makes it that way. He has never once had to tell Brodeur to practice harder or smarter. He has never put any restrictions on him either.

Maybe in their first year together Caron would wonder how Brodeur would bounce back from a tough loss, but that question was answered when Brodeur responded from the famous Stephane Matteau goal in 1994 to win the Stanley Cup in 1995.

A goal like Matteau's, a fluke in double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, could crush a lesser person. Not Brodeur, whose psyche remains strong to this day.

"When it finished like it did, it was surprising and disappointing, but I knew and he understood," Caron said. "That night he was not very happy of course, but he came out of it fast. He said it's a great experience and we'll go the next year. And, we won the next year."

Clearly, Caron wasn't surprised at all. He says he knew early in that 1993-94 season that Brodeur was different, that he was special.

"We knew we had a good club, and playing with a good club gives him more confidence also," Caron said. "So, we were winning, but you could tell right away when he started to play. You could see the change."

Brodeur was standing up more and anticipating instead of guessing, Caron said. He developed so fast and wound up winning the Calder Trophy as the League's rookie of the year.

Before the trophy was handed out, Caron told GM Lou Lamoriello what he thought.

"I could tell we had something special here," Caron said. "That's what I was telling Lou. I said, 'This kid is the real thing.'

"I have been teaching goaltenders since I was 38-years-old and I'm going to be 70, so I have seen a lot of them," Caron later added. "Goalies, they say, are different and Marty sure is different because he's probably the easiest goaltender to work with. He's not just smart. He understands the game and he knew where he was going and what we were trying to do. He is a team man. He cares about his teammates and they respond to him."

Brodeur has had more than 150 teammates since the start of the 1993-94 season, but only one goalie coach, one true mentor.

Caron has rode shotgun for the entire wild ride. If you think that's crazy, try being him.

"At first we didn't know where we were going. He didn't know and I didn't know," Caron said. "I felt I had knowledge and he had the talent. If you could put it together I thought he could be a pretty good goaltender. I never thought he'd become Martin, the best goaltender in the world. It's a real feather in my cap to be part of his life."

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