If you knew Martin Brodeur
like former teammate Kevin Weekes
knows him, you too would have a better appreciation for one of the greatest players to ever don the goalie pads.
Not only did Weekes oppose Brodeur on a few occasions during his tenure with the Islanders and Rangers, he was also a teammate of the record-setting goalie in his two seasons in New Jersey. Weekes can certainly attest to why Brodeur is such a popular figure with fans and the media -- something he knew even before becoming a broadcaster for Hockey Night in Canada and NHL On The Fly this season.
"He just likes being an anomaly and having it work," Weekes said. "I don't know if he'll tell you guys that, but he loves being different. He loves the fact he's different in a good way and it works for him. He loves the fact he uses the type of equipment he uses and is able to play the style he plays because, essentially, it goes against conventional wisdom."
Brodeur holds goaltending records for most wins (580), most minutes played (60,962), most games (1,032) and now most career shutouts (104) after breaking Terry Sawchuk
's record Monday against Pittsburgh.
"Having been around him every day, the biggest thing that I saw was that he just loves playing and the fact he wants to play all the time," Weekes said. "When you're not playing with a guy, you only know him to play against him and compete against him, especially when he's 200 feet down the ice. So, playing with him the last two years in Jersey, that's the biggest thing I saw -- he loves playing. I think it's a nice blend between his personality and the Devils organization."
Weekes admitted that rather than playing mind games like some other teams may do with their goalies, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello and the entire organization has done a fantastic job in "nurturing Marty, especially when he was younger."
"And even at this stage of his career, they continue to treat him as he should be treated and that's a good things because it allows Marty to be himself and have fun at the rink," Weekes said. "It's easier when you know the organization has your back and they're going to support you; they're going to ride or die with you."
A great example of that was earlier this season when it appeared the 37-year-old Brodeur was showing his age -- allowing eight goals in his team's opening two losses of the season. But he's allowed two goals or less in 20 of his next 27 games, including a string of six straight from Oct. 31 to Nov. 14 when he allowed just nine goals.
During the 2008-09 campaign, Brodeur suffered an injury that sidelined him 50 games, leaving Weekes and Scott Clemmensen
to fill the void much of the season. It was a period of time Weekes realized just how dedicated Brodeur was to the game and his craft.
Weekes finished 7-5-0 with a 2.42 goals-against average in 16 games between the pipes for the Devils last season.
"He likes being able to be as successful as he has and get away with not doing what all the conventional experts think that a goalie should do, so it's neat and fun to watch," he said. "I took something away from him during my time in Jersey just in terms of continuing to have fun and really enjoy the game and remember that it's only a game. I think that formula has really served him well in terms of his longevity."
Being able to adjust his game despite the changes made to increase scoring in the League -- the trapezoid that was introduced following the work stoppage comes to mind -- has also made him even more dynamic, according to Weekes. Brodeur has been known to stand up to the shooter more than most butterfly goalies, relying more on his quick reflexes and glove. But his greatest asset might just be his puck-handling ability behind the goal cage -- he's often referred to as another defenseman on the ice.
"He's made some adjustments along the way too," Weekes continued. "He tweaked some things in his game, with his equipment, and it's a package that has worked so well for him and for the Devils. And for us as hockey fans and me, being a former goalie, it's something that we can really respect because he just continues to set the bar higher, just the way Dominik Hasek
and Patrick Roy
and some of the other greats that came before him did. Those guys did things that nobody ever thought was possible for a goalie to accomplish, so it's a great story."
And it's a story that probably wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of Devils goaltending coach Jacques Caron
, who has been beside Brodeur every step of the way.
"Having been around him every day, the biggest thing that I saw was that he just loves playing and the fact he wants to play all the time." -- Kevin Weekes
"Their relationship has evolved over time and it's a long-standing relationship," Weekes said. "Jacques obviously knows Marty's game well and what he has to do to be successful in terms of his approach. At this point, it's not overly technical because Marty's played in over 1,000 games, but Jacques is able to identify little things that sometimes we all forget, even the greats, even Marty. Maybe your feet might not be as square as you need them to be because you're already anticipating the pass instead of focusing for the shot -- little things like that."
But Caron is more than just a coach for Brodeur, he's become a confidant.
"Off the ice, it's almost become a surrogate relationship -- Jacques is almost like a second father to Marty and I say that with all respect to Jacques," Weekes said. "He knows Marty so well -- what his state of mind is like and his emotions. He can see that from being in the locker room, at practice or in the birds' nest in Lou's (Lamoriello) gondola during games. Jacques' played a major role and the respect and affinity they have for one another really exemplifies that."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com