Steve Serby chats with Devils legendary goalie Martin Brodeur, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday:
Q: Who are the people you need to thank for making the Hall of Fame?
A: There’s a lot of people out there that they’re a big reason why I’m going to be standing there on Monday night. In my professional career, having Lou (Lamoriello) as a general manager, Jacques Lemaire (as head coach), my goalie coaches, but I think at the end of the day, it starts with your family. My parents, my sons and sisters and all that, some of the coaches that I had in minor hockey and throughout my growth years. There’s a lot of people to thank, and I’ll just try to do my best to thank everybody.
Q: If you were going to build the perfect goaltender, what part of Marty Brodeur would you take?
A: (Chuckle) Probably the poise and the calmness in the net, and obviously my stickhandling ability.
Q: Your goaltending style.
A: Probably hybrid. I was able to do a little bit of everything. I was not really predictable, so I was able to get in some shooters’ heads once in a while, because they weren’t sure if I was going to not poke-check or poke-check or not dive to them or stand up or do the butterfly. So I was able to do a little bit of everything. Probably not great at everything, but good enough.
Q: Could you tell by the look on their face that you were getting in their heads?
A: Yeah, sometimes I knew they would have some good looks to shoot and they would just bail and make passes. I’d be like, “Wow, that means that they don’t have confidence that they can beat me from there.”
Q: Was there ever a point when your confidence was shaken just a little bit?
A: Oh, yeah, for sure. It happens a lot in a season, there’s ups and downs and everything. There’s times that you feel that the puck is as small as an Advil coming at you. Other days it looks like a beach ball. Just lucky that you feel better more often that feel bad about my game.
Q: How do you explain your longevity?
A: That’s pretty simple. I think it’s the love of the game, you don’t play for that long not liking what you do. I loved my job. I loved playing the game of hockey. I loved the team aspect of it. I think the accountability, and I think the adrenaline that the games bring to you is something at the end I had a hard time coping not to let go. I just wanted to continue as long as I could. I was good enough and healthy to be able to play in my early 40s. I definitely pushed the envelope … and really enjoyed what I did.
Q: Your mentality in the net.
A: I was playing in the moment. Not much bothered me — bad goals, good saves or anything — my emotions would never really take over my personality or my game. People felt comfortable when I was in net because I felt that I was in control . … I didn’t show anybody I was nervous or all that stuff.
Q: You never had any sleepless nights?
A: Not really. A bad game didn’t really bother me. I knew I was going to be able to get back in the net right away. My performance didn’t really matter the amount of games that I played. That’s the support I had with New Jersey.
Q: You can pick the brain of any goaltender in NHL history.
A: Probably Ken Dryden. I’ve talked to him a little bit, never really in depth about the position, but I have a lot of respect for him that’s won multiple Stanley Cups on really good teams. A bit like me, I think sometimes he got overshadowed in Montreal, but he was a helluva goalie and he’s one guy that it would be really a treat to talk to.
Q: The one guy you would have loved to test your skills against on a penalty shot or breakaway.
A: Probably (Islanders Hall of Famer) Michael Bossy. He’s a guy, such a natural goal-scorer, his career got got cut short a little bit, but he was a guy that was really dominant offensively. Him and Guy Lafleur, these two guys are guys that I wish I could have played against.
Q: How do you think you would have done against either one of them?
A: I don’t know (laugh). I probably would have stopped them if you ask me (laugh).
Q: One memorable save?
A: Yeah, there’s a couple of them (chuckle). There’s one in the Olympics on Brett Hull in the gold-medal game in the third period — I made a save with my right pad on the goal line, the game was 3-2 at the time, and we took the puck from that save and made it 4-2 and almost clinched the gold medal for ourselves, so that’s one thing that comes to mind.
Q: Your rivalry with Henrik Lundqvist.
A: You get the respect from the other guy, but obviously our fans are so into it that people think we hate each other because of that. For me, the biggest rivalry was obviously with (former Ranger) Mike Richter than Lundqvist, that’s for sure.
Q: Who were some of the other goaltenders you enjoyed competing against?
A: Probably the guy I enjoyed the most was Dominik Hasek. He was such a good goalie. He was so kind of all over the place with his style. He’s won I think five or six Vezinas. Patrick Roy was another guy, but I didn’t get to play that many games against him.
Q: Did you take different pieces from different goalies over the years?
A: I think that’s one of the things that helped me be a hybrid goalie. Whatever was working for a goalie, I was really intrigued, so I would go back to the drawing board with my goalie coach. Sometimes it was good, sometimes I said, “Ah, forget about this, this is not working for me.”
Q: Did you play any position other than goaltender?
A: I played the forward until I was about 8 years old. I switched to goalie later on. That’s probably why I got my offensive skill as a goalie (laugh).
Q: Did you fall in love right away with playing it?
A: Yeah, I liked it. What I really liked was I was on the ice for the whole game (chuckle). You’re always in the action, and be a part of it. As I grew up older, it got more obvious that that’s what I wanted to do.
Q: What was it like hoisting the Cup for the first time?
A: It’s a dream come true. When you’re a kid you always played to win a Stanley Cup in the streets or on the outdoor rinks, and when you do it for real, it’s a pretty cool moment, it’s something that I’m always going to remember. I was able to win three of them, but if they would have told me, “Well, that’s it for you,’’ I think I would have been satisfied with that one.
Q: What did you feel like after winning the second and third one?
A: 2000, when we finally won our second one, I think it was really rewarding to be able to do it all together again with some of the guys that were still on that ’95 team. And 2003, we made some tweaks to our team, got some older players, guys like Turner Stevenson, Jim McKenzie, Joe Nieuwemdyk, to our team, so it became something a little different, especially for the guys that never won a Cup, and when as a team you’re able to deliver for them, it’s really rewarding.
Q: Stephane Matteau?
A: He’s the guy that broke our hearts (Matteau’s series-clinching goal for the Rangers in the second overtime of Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference final prevented the Devils from reaching the Stanley Cup Final).
Q: What were those playoff atmospheres like at the Garden?
A: MSG’s probably one of the funnest places to play in the playoffs, especially for us because everybody hated us so much. It was intense. Even in 2012, when we beat the Rangers (in the conference final), the people were really into it also. The rivalry games are the best games to play.
Q: Devils fans?
A: Really loyal. I came back four years after I retired. Now I work for them, a lot of the people that I saw my first game, or our first Stanley Cup, are still there. And their kids and all that. When you play for them, they really care about you. It’s been a treat for me to be able to play all my career in front of these guys.
Q: Which one of the three goals that you scored was your favorite?
A: My first one. The only one I really scored, the other ones I got credited for the goals, so …
Q: Tell me about that first one.
A: It was in the playoffs against Montreal. Kind of dumped in from the red line, we were up 4-2 at the time and they decided to pull their goalie, so I was able to grab the puck behind my net and spin around and I saw that all the players decided to take the boards away from me, so the ice was wide open, so I just put a little mustard on that puck and it went all the way to the end and scored.
Q: What is it like walking past a statue of yourself (outside the Prudential Center)?
A: (Laugh) You never expect something like that to happen to you, to have a statue. I don’t really walk often by it, but when I do I’m always amazed by it.
Q: Does it look like you?
A: Yeah, it does look like me. The guy did a good job (laugh).
Q: What would you say you’re most proud of?
A: Winning all these Stanley Cups have been great. On a personal level, I think the most wins (691) as a goaltender is one of my achievements that I’m the most proud of.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be?
A: Just the fact that people are talking about me as one of the best goalies in the world at one point, it’s exciting for me. Now I’m going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, just a great honor for me. A couple of years ago we did The Top 100 Players that ever played in the NHL and I was part of it. I was lucky enough to be able to make an impact. This generation can kinda look back and talk about me a little bit.
Q: A lot of people consider you The Greatest Of All Time — what do you think?
A: You know what? A lot of goalies are considered like that. Definitely it’s hard to say that about yourself, but it is what it is.
Q: Favorite teammates?
A: Obviously (Ken) Daneyko, (Scott) Stevens and (Scott) Niedermayer. It’s not every day that you have three defenseman that you’ve played for over 10 years together. No wonder we were able to have good chemistry together. These three guys are definitely going to be part of the guys I will mention.
Q: Lou Lamoriello?
A: He’s the one that built this franchise, the one that put me in the net. He was able to draft me. He’s a guy that did everything in his power for us to be successful. Wasn’t afraid, never asked anybody to make decisions, he did it for the best of the team all the time. You couldn’t ask for a better GM to play for my whole life.
Q: The Brodeur Rule (a rule that put restrictions on a goalie handling the puck).
A: I didn’t mind the rule. I know it prevented me to do what I’ve worked so hard, and next thing you know, one day it was over. My big issue with that was my defenseman was getting hit more because I couldn’t really help them out, digging pucks out of the corners for them and all that. It was for everybody. I didn’t feel that I was targeted for it. A lot of people thought so. But for me it didn’t really matter.
Q: Sum up what your father (Denis) meant to you?
A: My dad, because he was part of sports, being a photographer for the Expos and the Montreal Canadiens, so I always had a really good insight with what being a professional athlete was all about, so I think I’ve learned a lot from him through the years growing up, at the dinner table him and talking about his job. I’m the youngest of five, so big brothers and big sisters were there to take care of me also. … My dad played in the Olympics, winning their goal medal as a goalie for Team Canada. He’s a guy that played baseball all of his life. Working for the Expos and working for the Canadiens for him was something that he loved to do. Regardless of what I wanted to do, he always had my back on everything. He provided real well for us.
Q: What were memories at the Montreal Forum with your father like?
A: It was fun just to get to meet some of the players and some of the managers. A week when I didn’t have school the next day he would bring me and give me a camera and just put me on a stool right on the glass and he says, “Just go ahead, have fun, take pictures.” It was always fun the next day to be able to spend some time with my dad and go through getting the film developed and look what kind of pictures I took.
Q: Your mother was not a Canadiens fan.
A: We were fortunate, she was a stay-at-home mom, my dad was really busy working in media like you probably can attest to all over the place. It’s funny, she was from Quebec City so her dear Nordiques were the main team for her, so every Saturday night when they played against each other, we had a big rivalry with my mom all the time.
Q: What will it be like playing with your son Sunday in Toronto?
A: We’re going to play a Legends game on Sunday, and my son Anthony’s going to play my first 30 minutes and I’ll play the second 30 minutes, so it’ll be nice to be on the ice with him. I have an 8-year-old at home, so I think he’s starting to realize what I’ve accomplished in my career. When I was still playing, he didn’t really realize what was going on. So now I think he’s taking everything in a little bit. It’s been awesome just to see him interact with me about these things.
Q: Does he play hockey?
A: Oh, yeah. He’s a forward, but he’ll become a goalie, trust me.
Q: That’s a lot of pressure to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
A: That’s OK (chuckle).
Q: What advice would you give him?
A: Have fun. Make sure you work really, really hard and enjoy yourself.
Q: Favorite childhood memories?
A: Every Christmas we went to my parents’ cottage. My big brother would bring his buddies around, and we would play hockey games in the driveway. I still remember every Christmas, I would wake them up, they were probably having a few drinks or whatever and I’m sure they didn’t want someone 7, 8 years old waking them and (saying), “Let’s go play outside,” when it was minus-40 Celsius.
Q: When you started playing in the NHL, what kind of career did you imagine?
A: Not the one I had, that’s for sure. You just go out there and then you get greedy. You get a little of success and next thing you know, you believe that you belong, and you just feed off that energy, and you wake up 15 years later and you’re still in the league, and you got the most wins, and you’re like, “Wow, what just happened here?” I put my head down, I wanted to have fun, I wanted to win.
Q: Did you set goals for yourself when you started?
A: Not really. I just wanted to be in the NHL. It’s a dream come true to be part of an NHL team, to be a regular in the NHL, to live the life, to make the money and do all that stuff. For me it was just to be able to say that I had a place to play hockey and I was wanted where I was.
Q: What made you a Hall of Famer, in your eyes?
A: My love for the game, and my work ethic. I didn’t take any shortcuts for my success, that’s for sure.
Q: What drove you?
A: Winning. To have that feeling after a game or after a season that you’re able to stand on top of the mountain.
Q: Do you think you might cry on Monday night?
A: It’ll be emotional. … I hope not, but we’ll see. … I’m sure my buddies have bets on them (laugh), so we’ll see if I can make some money off of that one.