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Brodeur found winning formula on road to Hall of Fame

Class of '18 selection kept individual honors secondary to victories

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Martin Brodeur's long and winding journey to the Hockey Hall of Fame started in the Montreal suburb of St-Leonard with a duct-taped sock.

Young Martin and his best friend Guy Martin would play sock hockey in the Brodeur family basement on Rue Mauriac on many a rain-soaked day. With conditions outside too soggy for road hockey, the two kids created a puck by wrapping gray duct tape around a sock.

"We would play hand hockey with it for hours," Martin said. "And even then, winning was everything to him."


[RELATED: Brodeur, O'Ree, Bettman lead Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018]


To what end?

"If you scored the winning goal, there was always a claim it was illegal. So we'd always have to go to a penalty shot to decide who won.

"For Marty back then, it was all about winning. In sock hockey. In street hockey. Everything. And because of that, now he's in the Hockey Hall of Fame."

No NHL goalie won more than Brodeur, 46, who was voted into the Hall as a member of the Class of 2018 on Tuesday. He enters as the all-time leader in goalie victories with 691, 140 more than his boyhood idol, Patrick Roy. Brodeur is the NHL all-time leader in shutouts (125) and won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL in 1994, the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie four times (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008) and the Stanley Cup three times with the New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003).

For Brodeur, now an assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues, it was all about the wins; other accomplishments were byproducts.

Video: Martin Brodeur inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

"To me, [the goal] was the win record," Brodeur said. "To me, if I get enough wins, I'm going to get shutouts. Winning makes coaches, teammates, owners, fans all happy … I didn't care if we win 7-6 as long as we win.

"Getting into the Hall is such an honor. It's like the dessert of your career. The Hall is the top of the mountain."

For much of his climb to the pinnacle of the hockey world, Brodeur was accompanied by his dad, Denis, a sports photographer. After getting the call from the Hall, the first person Brodeur wanted to reach out to was Denis. He couldn't; Denis Brodeur died in 2013.

"I think he heard the conversation I had with the Hall telling me I was in," Martin said. "He would have been proud."

After telling his wife and kids, one of Brodeur's first calls was to Martin.

"We made it," he told his sock-hockey buddy.

"Marty never forgets the people around him, no matter how much success he's had," Martin said.

Video: Brodeur on being inductee for the Hockey Hall of Fame

Martin recalled how Brodeur set up road hockey games in front of the family home on Rue Mauriac after the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000. With the trophy sitting nearby, the games featured many of the same friends who had played there as kids.

It was on that same street Brodeur first honed his puck-handling skills. 

"Growing up, I'd never play goalie in street hockey or at shinny," Brodeur said. "I liked playing out. So the entire time I played goal, I liked handling the puck better than most."

It was a trait that elicited both frustration and admiration from NHL opponents.

"Sometimes he made more passes than his own defensemen did in a game," former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wendel Clark said.

Video: Martin Brodeur owns many key career goalie records

Not everyone thought that was a good thing.

"The game was turning into a tennis match," former NHL general manager Brian Burke said. "You'd dump it in, and the goalie would throw it out."

The NHL introduced the trapezoid to prevent that in 2005. In what became unofficially known as the Brodeur Rule, goalies could touch pucks behind the red goal line only in a designated area behind the net and not in the corners.

"It took away something I'd worked on all my life to be good at," Brodeur said.

Puck-handling wasn't the only thing Brodeur learned on Rue Mauriac. He also discovered humility.

Video: Daneyko on Brodeur's Hockey Hall of Fame induction

As a boy, he'd often see athletes like Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur and Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter come to his house to peruse photos Denis had taken of them.

"When stars like that would treat my dad with respect, it taught me how to treat people no matter how famous," Brodeur said. "I'd go to the Montreal Forum with him and see it firsthand. I'd go to spring training with him and see it when I got to be a ball boy."

The modesty he developed as a kid is still evident when you ask him if he is the greatest goalie of all time. He immediately starts reeling off names -- Roy, Dominik Hasek, Ken Dryden, to name a few.

"I don't think there will ever be someone everyone agrees is the best," Brodeur said. "Generations. Circumstances. Injuries.

"Who's the best? [Wayne] Gretzky will tell you the same -- he doesn't like talking about it either. We're all in this together here. We're lucky to play the sport we love and the game was good to us."

Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens, the captain of the Devils when they won their three Stanley Cup titles, said he's frustrated by critics' claim that Brodeur's stats are inflated because of New Jersey's defensive style.

"We led the League in scoring (in 2000-01), so I get tired about hearing about the boring style," Stevens said. "People seem to forget that.

"I've always pretty much put him No. 1 with the numbers and the wins and all he's accomplished."

For Martin, the criteria is much more basic.

"Kids who play street hockey like we did are pretending they're him," Martin said. "As a Hall of Famer, you can't have a better endorsement than that."

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