Tuesday night at the Prudential Center in New Jersey featured a raucous crowd who at one point stood and cheered for nearly two minutes without stopping. It wasn’t for their Devils though, or at least not all of them. The crowd was giving a standing ovation for hometown hero, goalie Martin Brodeur. After a stunning 24-year career, 21 of which were with the Devils, Brodeur has retired and New Jersey retired his number, 30, along with him.
Widely regarding as one of the greatest netkeepers to ever take the ice, Brodeur’s list of accomplishments reads like a set of wishes for any star-eyed middle school kid with a pair of skates and a stick. Three Stanley Cups, five Eastern Conference titles, 17 post-season campaigns, two Olympic Gold Medals, and lives as the only NHL goalie with eight 40-win seasons. Four-time Vezina Trophy winner, five-time Jennings Trophy winner, a Calder Memorial Trophy winner, and a 10-time NHL all-star, Brodeur almost singlehandedly changed the Devils’ from a “Mickey Mouse organization”, as Gretzky once called them, to Stanley Cup Champions.
It was fitting, therefore, that his number be retired in appreciation for his impact, not only on New Jersey, but the game itself. Brodeur’s impact went beyond his league records for wins, shutouts, playoff shutouts, and games played. Many speculate that in 2005 the new rule preventing goaltenders from playing the puck behind the goal line, save for a small space behind the net, was implemented specifically because of Brodeur. His abilities to handle the puck were so famous the rule was even nicknamed “The Brodeur Rule”.
Tuesday night’s crowd wanted to make sure their favorite tender knew how they felt and the standing ovation was so loud and long that Brodeur was prevented from giving his speech. Eventually the throng allowed him to speak and Brodeur expressed gratitude towards teammates, coaches, and, of course, the fans saying, “This is as good as it gets.” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman complimented Brodeur by calling him “the greatest goaltender in the history of this franchise, if not the history of this sport.”
Standing with his family in the crease Brodeur watched as his number and years with the team were raised high into the air. With a final wave of his goal tending stick Brodeur left the arena.
The 43-year old goes back to work as the Assistant General Manager for the St. Louis Blues but surely his heart will always be right there where it belongs, with the New Jersey Devils.