In a few hours, legendary New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur will have his number 30 raised to the rafters forever. He will be joining other Devil greats Scott Stevens (#4), Ken Daneyko (#3) and Scott Niedermayer (#27). One day Patrik Elias (#26) will join them as well. This number retirement ceremony will conclude four days of honoring Marty at the Prudential Center.
On Saturday he dropped the ceremonial faceoff between Cory Schneider and Braden Holtby of the Capitals, who has a chance to break Marty’s single-season wins record of 48. Then last night while I was watching the Devils take on the Rangers at MSG, the Devils unveiled Brodeur’s statue forever immortalizing him in bronze.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 8, 2016
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for both the Stevens and Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremonies (sorry Dano); those were such emotional nights. I was also at Mike “Doc” Emrick night and that was tremendous in its own right. Seeing the players you idolized growing up get recognized and honored for their achievements was such a special thing to witness. All of their former teammates, coaches, front office members and so on make the trip to be a part of the festivities. That’s probably my favorite part of these events how it’s never just about the player being honored. It’s so important to recognize those who were such a huge part of their success on and off the ice.
All that being said, tonight’s ceremony for Martin Brodeur is even more unique than any other the Devils have held previously. Marty wasn’t just a Devil great, he was an NHL great. He is arguably the greatest goaltender in the history of the sport. 691 wins, 125 shutouts, four Vezina trophies, a Calder trophy, five Jennings trophies, ten All-Star appearances and of course three Stanley Cups. The list of his accolades goes on and on. It’s simply amazing all he’s accomplished throughout his career.
Some of his achievements that really stood out to me are ones that perhaps fly under-the-radar or get lost in the mix of everything he’s done. Marty had at least one shutout in every season of his career except for his debut season of 1991-1992 where he played just four games. The year where he set the wins record of 48, he had 12(!!!!!) shutouts. Also in that season he started 78 games… SEVENTY-EIGHT GAMES! Out of 82. The next season? He started 77! There were 12 seasons where he started 70 or more games including a string of 10 straight seasons. That’s almost unheard of nowadays.
While Marty’s raw statistics are amazing on their own, what makes them even more sensational is how extremely durable and reliable he was. To play ten straight seasons of 70+ games, you’re just a machine. You have to be good enough to get that much playing time and be strong enough to handle that much of a workload over that period of time. For comparison, only three goalies played in 70+ games last season. The year before? Not a single one.
There’s one more thing that makes Martin Brodeur legendary and that’s how successful he was in the playoffs. It’s the case in every sport, with every player… if you don’t win it all then nobody really cares. Sure regular season dominance is nice, but championships are what everyone plays for and my goodness was Brodeur tremendous in the postseason. For starters, the Devils made the playoffs 16 of his 20 full seasons. Then when they got there, they did pretty damn well.
As I said, three Stanley Cups – 1995, 2000 and 2003 – plus a pair of times they made it to the Finals and lost (2001 and 2012). Five times the Devils were the best Eastern Conference team in 20 years. Not too shabby. In 205 career playoff games, Marty won 113 of them and got a shutout in 24. Just incredible. Perhaps my favorite stat is his 2.02 GAA over his playoff career which is Mariano Rivera-like if you’re a baseball/Yankees fan. In 2012, at the age of 39, Brodeur posted a 2.12 GAA in their 24 games en route to the Finals. The guy was a marvel.
You know what, forget the ‘arguably,’ Martin Brodeur was the best goalie to ever play hockey. He had everything you could ever ask for: records, regular season dominance, playoff dominance, hardware, championships, international success (two Olympic gold medals). More than that he gave his teammates confidence. They knew they had the greatest goalie ever playing behind them and the results spoke for themselves.
Congratulations Martin Brodeur. Devils legend, NHL legend, our legend.