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Hall of Fame

Brodeur inspired by family, motivated by setbacks on way to Hall of Fame

NHL's all-time wins, shutouts leader won Stanley Cup three times

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame induction is Monday. This class includes NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, in the Builders category as well as former players Martin Brodeur, Martin St. Louis, Alexander Yakushev and Jayna Hefford. Here staff writer Tom Gulitti profiles Brodeur.

NEWARK, N.J. -- While composing his speech for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday, Martin Brodeur reflected on the many significant moments and people that helped pave his way to this honor.

"This is your hockey life from when you're young, to the NHL and to Team Canada and tons of stuff that kind of made me who I am and the reason why I'm being inducted," he said. "To me, it's something that I never expected. Who really thinks about the Hall of Fame when you're a young guy?"

It certainly wasn't on Brodeur's mind when he was 7 years old and chose goaltender over forward because he was asked to focus on one position. Or when his older brother, Claude, forcefully talked him out of quitting hockey (to concentrate on skiing) when he was 14.

Or that night during the 1986-87 season when his father, Denis, a former goaltender and longtime Montreal Canadiens photographer, came home and told him about how Philadelphia Flyers rookie Ron Hextall often left his crease to play the puck and pass it to teammates, a skill Brodeur mastered before the NHL implemented a rule to limit it.

Fate stepped in when the New Jersey Devils traded down with the Calgary Flames from the 11th pick before selecting Brodeur with the 20th pick in the 1990 NHL Draft. He played 21 seasons with New Jersey before finishing his NHL career with a seven-game stint with the St. Louis Blues in 2014-15.

Brodeur not only retired as the NHL's all-time leader with 691 wins and 125 shutouts, but he shattered each record. Patrick Roy, the previous wins record holder, remains second with 551. Terry Sawchuk, who died in 1970, is second in shutouts with 103.

"I guess I am biased, but I think he goes down as the best all-time," former Devils captain Scott Stevens said. "Or top two, three,"

In an NHL-record 1,266 games, Brodeur went 691-397-49 with 105 ties. The 46-year-old Montreal native helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 and reach the Stanley Cup Final five times, including in 2012 when he was 40.

He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender four times and helped Canada win two Olympic gold medals.

Yet Brodeur oddly lists among his most significant moments one you'd think he'd prefer to forget: a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the rival New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

"If it goes the other way, that game is probably the best I ever played," he said.

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

Brodeur, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie that season, made 46 saves before Stephane Matteau's wraparound winner. That goal might have forever haunted some goalies, but Brodeur brushed it off and helped the Devils win the Cup for the first time the following season.

"You learn from your mistakes and you learn from your failures," Brodeur said. "It's how you get up that defines you to a certain extent."

One of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian, Brodeur didn't experience failure often. But his ability to rebound from it quickly was one of the qualities that made him special.

Video: Martin Brodeur owns many key career goalie records

"He had the mental toughness to be a goaltender," said Stevens, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. "It's kind of a lonely position. It's like a pitcher on the mound. You're sort of by yourself in a team sport, and he had the ability to just shrug things off and not let things snowball and get unwound."

Lou Lamoriello, the Devils general manager from 1987 to 2015, points to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final as another example. After being pulled in a 5-2 loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Game 6, Brodeur made 24 saves in a 3-0 victory in Game 7.

"How he could dismiss a bad night and recover, how he could just focus in on the moment, is something special," said Lamoriello, now the New York Islanders GM. "I haven't seen many people do it the way he can and not allow a bad goal to get in the way of the next play."

Lamoriello has often said that if he knew how good Brodeur was going to be, the Devils never would have traded down before drafting him. But his elite talent was evident almost immediately when he played four NHL games as a 19-year-old in 1991-92, including a 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins in his debut on March 26, 1992.

"I think as soon as we called him up we knew," Lamoriello said. "It was his athleticism and just all the little things, the intangibles besides talent that you felt about him, his demeanor, his professionalism. Certainly, a lot came from his dad and being around the pros."

Assisting his father on Canadiens photo shoots is how Brodeur first encountered Roy, his childhood idol. But unlike many goaltenders of his generation, Brodeur did not follow the butterfly trend Roy sparked.

To help Brodeur avoid recurring knee problems after two surgeries early in his career, Devils goaltending coach Jacques Caron worked with him on his footwork and got him to play more of a stand-up, hybrid style that utilized his athleticism and instincts. Brodeur credits that change with helping him stay healthy for most of his career while playing more games than any other goalie. 

He had 12 seasons when he played at least 70 games, including five of 75 or more. He led the NHL in games six times and in wins nine times.

Brodeur had eight 40-win seasons (no other goaltender has more than three), including 48 in 2006-07, a single-season NHL record equaled by Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals in 2015-16.

"He [was] year after year after year after year on top of his game," Roy said. "His consistency … he played tons of games. He played on great teams with great defensemen, but he was doing the job himself too."

Ken Daneyko, who played all 20 of his NHL seasons with New Jersey before retiring in 2003, considers Brodeur's arrival in 1993 a threshold moment in the building of the Devils' championship roster.

"Just his demeanor and his calmness in the net, the most important position, you want a guy to have that confidence," Daneyko said. "You just didn't see any fear in him. … He had that swagger, that athletic ability and you thought that potentially we had a really good one, and a good one for a long time if he progressed.

"We all know that he did [progress], and the rest is history."

Brodeur considered himself fortunate to play 10 seasons behind a defense that included Stevens, Daneyko and 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Scott Niedermayer. That stability and the structure of the defensive system under coaches such as Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns contributed to Brodeur's success, but he was also a big reason why their system was so effective.

His ability to get out of his net to stop dump-ins and get the puck to his defensemen diffused opposing forechecks and often started the Devils' transition from defense to offense.

"He had the passing ability that made it that much easier for the defensemen," Daneyko said. "His puck-handling ability almost made him like a third defenseman and they ended up making a rule for Marty because he was too good at it. Nobody could forecheck."

Although the implementation of a trapezoid behind the net in 2005-06 limited how much goalies could play the puck, Brodeur remained one of the NHL's best, winning the Vezina in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and topping 40 wins in four of his first five seasons under the rule.

"There's a lot of guys that are able to perform for a short period of time," Brodeur said. "It could be a week, it could be a month, it could be two months, it could be one season. It's doing it over and over. And being consistent was something that watching Patrick Roy all these years, that's what he was. He never had down years. And that's kind of the way I saw my career.

"I couldn't let myself have a bad year."

Outside the NHL, Brodeur's proudest hockey achievement was helping Canada to the gold medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. It was Canada's first Olympic gold in 50 years and thrilled his father, who won bronze with Canada at the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympics.

"That connection with my father was something unbelievable just to see him the way he was after," Brodeur said. "We got home and he had his Team Canada jersey from 1956 and he wanted to take a picture with his medal and with my medal. … I think we were the only father and son to win a medal in the Olympics as goalies, so it was a cool thing to do."

Brodeur took joy from sharing experiences like that with his family and friends. So though he said he's getting used to life without his father, who died in 2013, his mother, Mireille, who died in 2016, and Claude, who died last year, he'll feel their absence at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction.

"But when I look back, they lived everything with me, and this is one little thing they can't," he said. "So I'm sure they're going to be up there and really enjoying this moment."

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