By Sean Reis
Drafted on June 16, 1990, by the New Jersey Devils, no one — not even the man who drafted him, Lou Lamoriello — foresaw the goaltender that Martin Brodeur would one day become, the career that he would have or the accolades that he would receive. Brodeur won the first of those accolades only three years later when he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year for the 1993-’94 season. Fast forward to last Tuesday, Feb. 9, for Brodeur’s most recent accomplishment.
With his family, friends and fans in attendance, among other notable individuals, the Devils retired Brodeur’s No. 30 jersey in order to honor the man who built their franchise, the greatest goaltender to ever play the position he had not only dominated, but also redefined — “Marty” Brodeur.
“Whether it was the poke check, his glove or the pad slide, Marty knew how to stop the puck like no one before him,” the NHL’s (despised) commissioner Gary Bettman said during the ceremony on Tuesday night. “And I dare say, no one who will come after him.”
Legendary goaltender Ken Dryden once described his position as “not fun” and “a grim, humorless position, largely uncreative, requiring little physical movement and giving little physical pleasure in return.”
However, Brodeur did not define his position as such and as the appreciation video, “A Salute to Martin Brodeur,” which was played at the ceremony, defined it for him, “Goaltending is creativity, an expression of imagination and innovation. Artistry with pads, a glove and a mask.”
Brodeur turned the netminder into the third defenseman with such amazing puck handling that the NHL created a rule nicknamed after him.
Brodeur was unpredictable yet unflappable in net. Generally, the shooter makes the first move and the goaltender reacts, but Brodeur loved to make the first move, forcing the shooter to react. This unique ability was why he ended his career as the winningest goaltender in NHL history with 691 wins — 140 more wins than Colorado Avalanche’s Patrick Roy. This number includes 125 shutouts, the most of any goalie. Brodeur was also awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy five times, the Vezina Trophy four times and led the Devils to win the Stanley Cup three times — not to mention too many more unbeatable feats of greatness to count.
Nonetheless, after everyone had honored Brodeur and the man himself spoke, the time arrived to lift the banner into the rafters. With his family by his side and an uncontrollable smile on his face, Brodeur watched as his beloved number was raised high, joining Devils legends Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer. The crowd had an energy rarely seen since Brodeur left the franchise, starting one of many “Marty” chants that evening. The No. 30 would never be worn by a Devil ever again, but the number will be seen by future generations of fans so they will know that the greatest goaltender of all time played there.