Martin Brodeur swears there was no schism that caused the goaltender who broke record after record during 21 seasons as a constant backbone for the New Jersey Devils to have his retirement news conference Thursday in front of a St. Louis Blues backdrop.
Brodeur arguably is the greatest goaltender of all time and inarguably the best statistical goalie of all time. After winning three Stanley Cups in New Jersey, after setting dozens of milestones that will never be broken with New Jersey, after being so loyal to one franchise by sticking around year after year while player after player struck it rich in free agency, how is it possible that Brodeur could have that presser in St. Louis, where he started five of his 1,453 career regular-season and playoff games?
Brodeur deserved the same grand sendoff that Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom got in Detroit, that Mike Modano got in Dallas even after leaving for the Red Wings, that Daniel Alfredsson got in Ottawa even after an apparent fracture with management and ownership.
Maybe Brodeur’s ego was still hurt that he wanted to play one more year and Lou Lamoriello wouldn’t make it happen. Maybe Lou was just being stubborn Lou and didn’t feel it was important enough to make sure Thursday’s event was in Newark, not St. Louis.
But it’s a real shame it did. It was the most unemotional presser you’ve ever seen for a player as great as Brodeur. The Devils were barely mentioned, his Hall of Fame career almost glossed over.
It was awkward and wrong.
Brodeur, who will learn the management trade as Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s apprentice for at least the rest of the season, has every right to work for the Blues. There’s few better people to learn from than Armstrong. But that doesn’t mean the retirement presser had to occur in St. Louis.
Watching Brodeur star in goal for as long as he did was an absolute pleasure. As his former Devils teammate Zach Parise said, most his records, “nobody will ever come to near,” such as his 691 wins and 125 shutouts.
In the era of goalies finding ways to cheat by using Marshmallow Man-sized chest protectors, super-long pads and flaps that covered their five-holes, Brodeur wore 32-inch pads and the same chest protector/arm pad combo for years. Only late in his career did he adjust a little.
“When I first came into the league, his chest protector looked smaller than my shoulder pads,” Parise said.
He also was so good at playing the puck, the NHL had to make rule changes, such as the goalie trapezoid, because Brodeur would single-handedly ruin forechecks.
“It was so hard to create anything because as a defenseman, where do you put it?” said Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor, who lost to Brodeur’s Devils in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals as a Dallas defenseman. “He changed the game.”
Even after the trapezoid was instituted, nobody was better than Brodeur.
“It was unbelievable how easy we were able to break out with him,” Parise said. “So many times, he’d pass it like a defenseman. I’d come up the wall and he’d send it right to me with one pass and I was out of the zone. It was incredible.”
It’s going to be weird to see the NHL without Brodeur. As great as he was on the ice, he was so affable off of it, especially to the press.
“When I get older, I’m going to tell people that I played with that guy. You know what I mean?” Parise said. “I played with him for nine, 10 years. It seemed like he was going to play forever.”
“Good game or bad game, you could never tell the difference. That’s why he was able to play so long at that level. It was pretty cool. I was lucky to play with him for a long time and be part of when he broke Patrick Roy’s wins record, the shutout record. To be on the ice for that stuff was pretty cool.”
NHL short takes
Ripping the stat guys
Detroit coach Mike Babcock is the latest to complain at the Panthers’ philanthropic off-ice officials after Florida outshot the Red Wings 41-27.
“When we hit the net, it’s supposed to count [as a shot]. When they miss the net, it’s not supposed to [count]. The NHL can figure that out,” Babcock said.
Old Panthers GM Rick Dudley once went bonkers on Florida’s off-ice officials in the middle of a game for generous shot credits. That was during one of the two successive years Roberto Luongo set NHL records for shots against and saves.
Tough love for rookie
The Sabres suspended rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov for a game because he didn’t arrive back from the Dominican Republic on time Monday after the All-Star break. He and his girlfriend were bumped off their Sunday flight.
“I think it’s just the right thing to do with the kid to teach him a lesson,” Sabres GM Tim Murray told WGR-AM radio. “I think it’s the right thing to do with our veteran players to show them we’re paying attention. The kid got caught in a situation where it really wasn’t his fault, but don’t get caught in those situations.
“We’re trying to change the culture here.”
Get ‘em hooked up
Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz likes the idea of hockey players wearing GoPros.
“Down south, NASCAR’s the leader in putting you in the driver’s seat, if you will,” Trotz said. “There’s no reason at our level that you couldn’t put people in the driver’s seat to see what the player sees. I think that’s where the league’s ending up, and I think that’s where they ultimately want to get to, is have the ultimate fan experience.”
Unhappy with Semin
Carolina coach Bill Peters is souring on mercurial Alex Semin, who has one goal in 26 games.
“We just play the guys who dig in and work and play with speed in both directions and play hard. It’s not hard,” Peters said. “Obviously something’s not right.”
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: 2 p.m. at Vancouver (FSN)
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Chicago (NBCSN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Colorado (FSN)
Player to watch: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Blackhawks
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook get all the hype, but it’s this two-way Swedish defenseman who gets all the tough Blackhawks matchups.
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— Charlie Coyle on his winning goal in Edmonton being the top play on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”