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Brodeur recalls unique bond with father as Hall of Fame induction nears

Goalie 'lived it up' with Olympian, sports photographer

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

TORONTO -- There is a photograph somewhere among retired goaltender Martin Brodeur's collection of many hundred, a favorite image taken by his father, Denis.

"My dad got a pass to photograph me in New Jersey, in a game against Detroit," Brodeur said. "That night I made a stick save on Kris Draper, right on the goal line, and my dad must have been in exactly the right spot to get that picture. I knew Dad was good, but not that good."

And then, with a laugh, he said, "I guess both of us were a little lucky on that one."

 

[RELATED: Brodeur inspired by family, motivated by setbacksBrodeur Testimonial]

 

Brodeur will be thinking of many people when he is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. But no one will be nearer to Brodeur's heart than his father, who died of brain cancer in 2013 at age 82.

Denis Brodeur photographed Martin from his son's days playing hockey in the road front of the family home in the Montreal district of St. Leonard, and in the basement, with a ball of wool wound tight with adhesive tape to make a round puck. He followed Martin through his selection by the New Jersey Devils in the 1990 NHL Draft (No. 20) and Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003, and chronicled his son's Calder Trophy win as NHL rookie of the year (1993-94), his Vezina Trophy wins as the NHL's best goalie (2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08) and his share of William Jennings Trophy wins (1996-97, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2009-10, with the award given to the goaltender(s) who play a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals allowed).

He was thrilled by Martin's gold medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City and 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with Denis having won a bronze himself playing goalie for Canada, represented by the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen club team, at the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympics in Italy.

Martin, 46, said he especially cherishes two memories of his father, one on the rink, the other off it.

"We were doing a 'Hockey Night in Canada' interview on the ice in Detroit in the moments after my first Stanley Cup," he said. "Just to see my dad's face, the way he talked about his happiness about my winning the Cup … I smile every time I see that little clip.

"And I remember spending about two weeks with my dad in Salt Lake City when we won the gold medal. The Olympics were such a big, important thing for him, having been a part of it in 1956. That I could win the gold, and for him to be a part of it, well, he was like a little schoolboy, he was so excited.

"The first thing he did when we got back to New Jersey was bring his 1956 Olympic sweater that he had at home in Montreal, with his bronze medal, and we took pictures together, with our medals and jerseys."

After a well-traveled career in junior, senior and minor-pro hockey, Denis Brodeur took up photography at a Montreal sports center, peddling his publicity shots and crime-scene photos door-to-door to newspapers in town. One day in 1961 he took a call from Jacques Beauchamp, sports editor of a French-language Montreal daily, who offered him a regular freelance opportunity shooting Montreal Canadiens games at the Forum.

His work, starting with a boxy, brick-heavy Rolleiflex camera and handheld flash, eventually landed him a job as the Canadiens photographer.

But the hockey team would be just part of his enormous portfolio. For decades, Brodeur photographed every important sports event in Montreal, returning to the five-ring arena to shoot the 1976 Olympics. After having been other side of the lens in 1955-56, when he posed for a photo wearing No. 19 with the Olympic-bound Dutchmen, he was focusing his camera on Olympians for many clients.

Baseball's Montreal Expos hired him as their official photographer, too. He snapped mug shots at spring training in Florida, developing film in motel bathtubs, having driven south with his three boys and two girls because his wife, Mireille, wasn't fond of flying.

Brodeur and the Toronto Star's Frank Lennon were sitting shoulder to shoulder at Moscow's Luzhniki Palace of Sports on Sept. 28, 1972, both capturing the iconic shot of Yvan Cournoyer and Paul Henderson hugging after the latter's goal for Canada late in Game 8 won the Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

A decade later, young Martin, a budding goalie and star-struck kid, was helping his father at the Forum, lugging cases and lights and helping him set up portable studios for Canadiens portraits. Expos players Gary Carter and Andres Galarraga would become regular visitors to the Brodeur home.

"I'd hear my dad talking about his work but the terms that he used were lost on me," Martin said with a laugh. "He'd set up his strobes, using meters to adjust his lights. My two (older) brothers were really good at it, but for some reason I never got into it. Photography was a big part of our family. I was probably the one least intrigued by it but I told them, 'Well, I'm just going to play hard so you guys take pictures of me instead.'"

Brodeur almost apologized when he said the only camera he owns today, beyond the one in his iPhone, is locked away for safekeeping -- the 35 mm Nikon F his father used to shoot Henderson's historic 1972 goal in Moscow.

For years, on his way to setting numerous NHL records with the Devils, Brodeur would be aware of his father taking photos of him at each end of the rink, especially at the Forum and Bell Centre in Montreal.

"Dad always sat in his front-row spot in the corner on the penalty-box side and he'd go back and forth for each period. It was fun to be able to experience that," he said.

Brodeur laughed when it was suggested to him that he might have hot-dogged a save or two, with a little extra mustard, for his father's benefit.

"Nah, when you play hockey you have to be focused," Brodeur said. "Before a face-off I'd wink at him -- we have some great pictures of that stuff -- but if I did showboat, it was on my own, not because my dad was there."

Denis, who published four books of his photography, including one devoted exclusively to Martin, was at Bell Centre on March 14, 2009, when his son tied Canadiens icon Patrick Roy's NHL record of 551 wins. And he was at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, three nights later, when his son broke the record. Both were commemorated with souvenir father-and-son photos.

And in December 2009, as Martin neared Terry Sawchuk's NHL record of 103 shutouts, his father walked into a Montreal antique shop and happened upon a photo that took his breath away. He bought that image, of Sawchuk, and framed it beside one of Martin for the record-breaking occasion, with plaques beneath them indicating 103 and 104.

Brodeur got the 117th of his 125 NHL shutouts Feb. 7, 2012, at the New York Rangers the night after Denis was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The goalie flew home to give the souvenir puck to his father as a gift; it was the only shutout puck he hadn't kept for himself.

Regaining strength four months later, Denis again traveled to see his son, this time giving him his 1956 Olympic jersey and the mask he wore at the end of his career.

Mireille, who died in 2016, returned the 117th shutout puck after Denis died Sept. 26, 2013, following several operations. The goalie's set was complete again until recently, when he loaned pucks from his first NHL regular-season and first Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts to the Hall of Fame for his display.

There was no question, as he rewrote the NHL record books, that Brodeur was bound for the Hall of Fame. With a heavy heart, but with a lifetime of good memories, he will think of his father Monday when he joins the immortals of the game.

"It gets emotional when I think that my dad isn't around to see this," Brodeur said. "But we had a good run, we lived it up together. He was able to see some Stanley Cups and some gold medals, some All-Star Games and some NHL awards. But I think this is something that he'd wish to be here for. It would have meant a lot for him to see his son going into the Hall of Fame."

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