I first started following hockey a bit late — 1993-94 season. Now, I knew that the Penguins had won two straight and then the Canadiens beat the Kings, but I knew nothing before that. To sum up my knowledge of hockey entering that season, I equated Wayne Gretzky with the Kings and Mark Messier with the Rangers, not the Oilers.
But I had a friend who had NHLPA 93 for the Sega Genesis, which did not have the real team names (remember “Long Island”?). And the got into NHL 94. And since we finally had cable at my house, I started to catch games.
I followed the playoffs because of the freshness of hockey. I attached to Quebec and Ottawa because of NHL 94 (once I became good at that game, I started playing with the worse teams in the game and those ended up being my favorite). But since both missed the playoffs, I had to watch what was being shown.
And ESPN loved the New York Rangers and the curse of 1940. I quickly tired of the Rangers and they became a hated team (that hatred would increase when they eliminated the Nordiques the next year). So, when the Rangers met the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals, the Devils became my surrogate team.
And that was when I really started to follow Martin Brodeur. It was his first full season in the NHL and he was superb. I did not realize it at the time that I was watching one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time.
Now, I will probably always hold Patrick Roy as the best net-minder ever, but that is probably my Colorado Avalanche bias (still like them even though they left Quebec; Ottawa is my favorite team, though). But with Brodeur’s newest record, shutout record, he is definitely challenging for the best goalie of all-time.
Just look at his stats (as of 22 December).
- 1032 games played
- 60,962 minutes logged
- 580 wins
- 105 shutouts
- 25,988 saves
- .914 save percentage
- 2.20 goals allowed average
And some of those are records:
- Most wins all-time
- Most shutouts all-time
- Most minutes by a goaltender
- Most game appearances
- Most minutes in a season (4696)
- Most wins in one season (48)
- Most consecutive 30-win seasons (12)
- Most consecutive 35-win seasons (11)
- Most consecutive 40-win seasons (3)
- Most 40-win seasons (7)
- Most overtime wins (45)
- Tied [with Roy] for most playoff wins (23)
Oh, and for good measure, he is tied with Ron Hextall for most goals by a goaltender (2).
And, let’s not forget the awards.
- Calder Trophy (1994)
- Four Vezina Trophies (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008)
- Four Jennings Trophies (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004)
- Three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003)
- Ten-time All-Star
- And an Olympic Gold Medal for good measure
And keep in mind, he has done all of this with the same team — the Devils. Unlike my erroneous equation of Gretzky with the Kings, Martin Brodeur is synonymous with the Devils (just look at the logo on his personal website).
Furthermore, it does not appear he is slowing down. The consecutive 30-win, 35-win, and 40-win records ended in 2008! Injuries stalled him last season, but he returned from elbow surgery to win four straight, including two shutouts!
So far this season he is 23-8-1 with three shutouts, a .921 save percentage while sporting a 2.10 goals allowed average. All these stats are among the best among goaltenders, with the 23 wins being tops in the NHL. He is also second in games played and minutes logged.
Thus, he is still producing at a high level and showing durability and stamina.
I am not one to claim someone the greatest of all-time in any sport if that athlete is still playing. But, once he hangs it up, it will be difficult to argue against Martin Brodeur as the greatest goaltender of all-time.
Certainly, some will try. They will claim it is the Devils’ system that has bred Brodeur’s success. Or that the equipment has given goaltenders a greater advantage than their predecessors.
But all of these can be countered — he still has to make the stops; the skill and athleticism of scorers offsets equipment advantages; etc. And it just delays the obvious and attempts to besmirch the accomplishments of Brodeur.
There will come a day when someone other than Brodeur will be the number one goaltender for New Jersey. It will be strange because Brodeur as the Devils goalie is all that I have ever known.
But I also think that due to Brodeur’s illustrious career with just one team, I am not the only one to make that association. It seems that he has always been in net for the Devils and when he steps away it will be strange for all of us.