Brodeur: “I’m just a kid from Montreal that loved playing hockey”

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)

Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie in NHL history and was one of the leaders of the Devils’ three Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000, and 2003.

Brodeur spent 24 years with the Devils and he won four Vezina trophies for top goaltender, five Jennings trophies for lowest goals against. He holds NHL records in wins with 691, shutouts with 125, and games played, 1,266. He also won 113 playoff games.

The Devils unveiled a statue of Brodeur, “The Salute,” on Monday night at the Prudential Center in front of 4,000 fans. Brodeur was joined by sons Anthony, Jeremy and Maxime.

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

On victory defining his career, Brodeur said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, “As a goalie, if you don’t have that as a model, you’re in trouble. Who cares how many goals against you get scored, at the end of the day, it’s how many wins you get, and so for me, when we picked the pose for the statue, it was about winning because I don’t salute anybody if I lose, I just go back to my locker room and feel shame,” which he said with his deadpan humor.

“Again, you win, you salute people, and there’s a lot of pictures that I saw that really showed that pose, and for me it was important because people see it, it’s when I salute them after games, the wink, I said yesterday, it was usually for my kids if they were in the room, but if the fans think it’s for them, that’s okay too.”

Brodeur said of the statue, “It’s great, Jon did a great job. I spent a little time with him before he started the whole project and it looks pretty real, I look fit too, so I said, that’s good, look like I have a real presence in the net.”

Brodeur’s number 30 will join the Devils’ other retired numbers, Scott Stevens’ 4, Ken Daneyko’ 3, and Scott Niedermayer’s 27 in the Prudential Center rafters on Tuesday night ahead of the Devils’ game against Edmonton.

Brodeur originally wore 29, and was later given number 30. He said of possible choosing 30, “In New Jersey, at that time, we didn’t decide much, so it was given to me by Lou (Lamoriello), and I didn’t say anything, I said ‘thank you.’ I was so happy to be here, you could have given me anything, it would have been great.”

Brodeur said of his number joining those three retired numbers, “For my own career, I never really thought about it. When I came to New Jersey, there was none for my first , I don’t know, 15 years, 10 years, there was not one number up in the rafters, and you started something good. We had a lot of success, and first came Scott Stevens, and after that, Scott Neidermayer and Ken Daneyko, so it’s something that, now it’s me. Weird it’s all defensive-oriented to get up there, I don’t know why.”

On the focus being on him this week while the attention was on the team as a whole throughout his career, Brodeur said, “It’s a little different, it’s like the ‘I’ to the ‘we,’ gotta switch it up. I feel that my success came from being a team player and being part of an organization that put team first. I’m a goalie, don’t forget, so some nights I felt like I played against 11 players, you know, so that’s just the way it is. I needed them to be successful for me to have any kind of success. I fell into a great organization early in my career, to be able to have success early and really pave the way for the rest of my career.”

Brodeur’s father, Denis, was a legendary hockey photographer, most known for his work with the Montreal Canadiens. This past weekend, Martin Brodeur, along with the Devils, the National Hockey League and Mayor Steven M. Fulop, the Jersey City School District, the Jersey City Recreation Department, Getty Images and Panasonic, announced the creation and launch of the Denis Brodeur Sports Photography Program at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City

Martin Brodeur said of his father, who passed away in 2013, “We had a great relationship, so it’s kind of sad he’s not here with us, but again, I’m sure he’s at a place right now that he’s enjoying this and he’s really proud of what I’ve accomplished. My dad played hockey for awhile, played in the Olympics and all that, never got to experience the life of playing in the NHL, so I gave him the experience to live it through me. We had a blast, from some of the championships that we won, from Olympic games, All-Star Game, NHL awards, my dad was always by my side.”

On looking up at the rafters as a kid and seeing all the Montreal Canadiens’ retired numbers, Brodeur said, “There’s a reason they’re so high, it’s like it’s almost unreachable, you know, and for me to look at it, I thought the history of the Montreal Canadiens is huge and, seeing these names, it was just appropriate for them to be in the rafters.

“For me, it was something that I grew up watching one of the best franchises in sports. My dad worked for them, we went to get (head coach) Jacques Lemaire, who was out of the Montreal Canadiens organization, and how funny we became one of the good ones after that,” said Brodeur.

Brodeur’s style of playing goaltender was stand-up with a bit of butterfly mixed in. He said of how his style evolved over his career, “I definitely changed a little bit at the end. I would say I resisted as long as I could not to change, but the game changed dramatically after 2004 (when the season-long lockout occurred) and more and more, I got away with it for awhile, and after that, I had to change it. A lot of it, it’s funny, most of it’s equipment-wise, I got myself bigger equipment. I just felt that I had to block more space because the game was faster. It was still smaller than everybody, but it was big for me. That’s probably the biggest change, and definitely using the butterfly style, I was just a little smarter about the game, you know, I wasn’t as aggressive. I was a little more passive as a goalie because of how open the game is, passes back door, a lot more opportunities that came from, I call it like Jack in the box, because you don’t know where chances are coming from, so I needed to tweak a little bit my positioning in the net in my later years.”

Brodeur said of Devils fans, “It’s great, I want to make sure everyone understands who was important to me, the fans. It’s hard, you guys are doing a great job with social media and stuff, so there’s not much secret anymore. It’s kind of hard thinking about what I can surprise them with, I came up with nothing.

“It’s going to be fun for me to be a part of this, my family, all the people around me, especially being around the people I’m really comfortable with, and it’s the fans. Throughout my career, we had that special relationship. These guys were here my rookie year to the last game I played. My first game, some guys were two years old, now they’re 25 years old, so that relationship stayed, that bond that we had – it’s not the biggest fan base, but it’s one of the best ones because it’s really personable. The fans that are here are true Devil fans and you see it when you travel around the league and when we play on the road and they came over or whenever the Devils set up events and you see them over and over, so you recognize these people because they’re there every single year supporting this team,” said Brodeur.

On being the face of the Devils, Brodeur said, “There’s a couple guys, Scott Stevens was a part of it a little bit, but I stayed the longest I guess, so I get the title,” he said jokingly.

“It’s overwhelming, like for me, I’m just a kid from Montreal that loved playing hockey, came into a great organization and I got success early in my career and that followed path and there’s a lot of people that made that happen for me. I know I’m the one stopping the puck, but there’s a lot of people in front of me that really helped me also. I’m the face, I’ll take it, it’s great, and the statue will be there for it, so people remember it, but it’s like I said, I just wanted to play hockey and have fun, and that’s exactly when I retired last year I was able to do.”

Brodeur currently works as the assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues, whom he played with that season. He said of possibly wanting to be a General Manager someday, “It’s still young in my after-playing career to really make a decision on where I want to go with that. I’m enjoying myself, it’s really challenging, it’s different, but at the end of the day, being in that position keeps me in the game, keeps me living somewhat of a hockey player’s life. I played for so long, and retirement always scares you about like what are you going to do next, especially for a hockey player because you retire so young – I was old, but usually it’s younger – but again, that opportunity to kind of follow a path and see different opportunities that I could do for an organization is great, and I thank the Blues for that, for giving me that opportunity, but it’s something for the future, the title that I want or would like to have, I don’t know. Being a goalie in the NHL, there’s 60 spots, so that’s hard to do. GM, there’s only 30, so it’s even harder to do.”

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