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The End of an Era

The New Jersey Devils have had one constant since I became a fan: Martin Brodeur. I attempt a lasting tribute today to a man who meant so much to Devils hockey and Devils fans everywhere.

He may have briefly been a Blue, but these are the colors Marty will always be remembered for.
He may have briefly been a Blue, but these are the colors Marty will always be remembered for.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

So obviously, the cat is out of the bag and Martin Brodeur, icon of the New Jersey Devils and the NHL's all-time leader in wins is set to officially announce his retirement tomorrow.  As someone who became a hockey fan during the mid-90s, Marty up until last season was always the stalwart in New Jersey's net aside from injuries.  It didn't matter where free agents during the off season, or if we had young players filling in the holes in the lineup; we had Marty.

I sit here writing this piece and I still don't think it's set in that the end of an era is now just about official; while it won't be finalized until approximately half an hour after this article gets set to publish, Brodeur hanging up the skates and pads is bittersweet.  As a fan, I knew the man wouldn't be able to play forever, but his longevity at a position that sees many leave for other leagues or retire well before their forties had me hopeful that he would just keep going.  When the Devils elected not to re-sign him, I assumed another team would pick him up, or that New Jersey could bring him back if Cory Schneider got hurt.  St. Louis would be the first team to suffer enough goalie injuries to bring Marty in, however their players got healthy, and Brodeur wound up being the bicycle's third wheel.

Part of me realizes that we Devils fans have to let Marty ride off into the sunset, the same way we did with Captain Crunch, Mr. Devil, and Captain Scott Part II (not an official nickname, but the best I could come up with on short notice); but is it really that easy to let go of a man who has been the face of our franchise for two decades?

I won't go into stats, or the Brodeur Rule, or analyze to death things about Marty that have already been analyzed to death.  Whether I'm the right guy for the job or not, today I take a look back on a few of my favorite Marty Brodeur moments as a tribute to the man who meant to much not only to fans, but to the game of hockey itself.

5.)  Devils Win the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals

While not specifically a Marty Moment, I love the end of this game not just because it really stuck it to Our Hated Rivals, but because once you finally get to see Brodeur's reaction, you see a man who truly loves the game of hockey.

If you want to see Brodeur's reaction alone, skip to about 6:45.  He may not have worn the captain's "C" but he certainly exemplified leadership; Adam Henrique even says so in the above video.  To see him react with as much excitement as a rookie would just showed me how much he loved simply playing hockey.  We may have seen him wanting to continue his career as "selfish" during this past summer, but if videos like this mean anything, we should see him more as just a man that wanted to keep playing the game he loves for as long as he could.

4.)  Brodeur Scores A Goal!

While the video quality on this clip is less than spectacular, it does its job nonetheless.  While this would not be the only time in his career that he did so (including a more recent goal being credited to him due to a flubbed pass), this first instance above was only the second time a goaltender has scored in the playoffs; to date there has not been another goalie to score in the postseason.

I love this moment just because it's Marty scoring a goal; the Devils paid him to keep the puck out of our net, not put it in the net of the opposing team!  Maybe we should see if he'd like to come back and play forward for our team right now; he couldn't be any worse than some of the forwards we're employing!

3.)  Brodeur Breaks Roy's Record

There's not much to say about this one; play the video and let the voice of Doc Emrick tell you everything you need to hear.

In seriousness, this moment will live in history for all Devils fans; it was the validation for us that our Marty stood alone on top of the mountain.  You can argue all day about eras of hockey, different play styles, and great goalies with inferior teams in front of them but when it comes to numbers, Marty would sit alone after this game.  He would continue to add to his total, finishing his Devils career with 688 wins (more on those later) and overall with 691.  Unless some goalie eventually gets 692 wins (highly unlikely but never say never) this moment will live in goaltending history.

2.)  New Jersey Wins Their First Stanley Cup

Not only was the first Stanley Cup a great moment for Brodeur, but just an amazing moment for the team as a whole.  In just his sophomore season as New Jersey's starting goalie, Marty would lead the team to its first ever Stanley Cup.  While I wasn't fortunate enough to watch this moment when it happened live, the clip here more than does the moment justice.  The pure outpouring of emotion from the entire team; Marty being surrounded and leaped upon in front of his net.  Doc did a great job again emphasizing just how important of a moment this was (as did the tears of Mike Peluso) not only to each player on the ice, but to the organization and every one of its fans.

1.)  4/13/14 - #688 - The End

This moment takes #1 for purely selfish reasons; as I've mentioned in previous articles, it isn't easy to get to Devils games while living in Connecticut.  I had seen two Devils games in person prior to this: the night Scott Niedermayer's #27 was retired, and the last shootout win against Winnipeg before the shootout slump.  Marty did not play in either of those games, and I was elated to finally see him live against the Boston Bruins in this game; even with his skills nowhere near what they were in his prime, and with the Bruins resting half of their players, Marty still showed on that night why he was Marty.  During the second period, my girlfriend was able to snap the picture currently set as the ILWT Facebook page cover photo.  We soaked in every moment of that game; everyone in the building that afternoon didn't want that game to end.  We knew it had to though.

I stood up along with everyone else in the Prudential Center that day and watched the rest of the team retreat to the bench to give Marty his moment in the sun.  The man stood for and embodied Devils hockey for over twenty years, and the least we could do (players and fans alike) was to show him how much he meant to all of us; I'm sure every fan watching at home did the same.

A Final Note

I'm sure many of you are in the same boat as me; Marty was one of the reasons that I became a Devils fan.  The man was a human highlight film on an almost nightly basis, and even if the team in front of him was playing like hot garbage, you knew the Devils had a chance each and every game, because when all else failed, we had a secret weapon that no other team had.  We had Martin Brodeur.  Despite his stats from his last few seasons, there will never be another goalie like him.

I've heard rumors on the internet that people close to the team read this blog; we've even been name-dropped on another site before, though the exact article is eluding me right now.  If anyone close to the team does read this, I hope they'd let Marty know that there's a tribute article here for him.  Even if he never sees this, from one Devils fan to the greatest goalie to ever lace a pair of skates for us...

Thank you Marty; we'll miss you.