In the last few years I’ve came to appreciate Martin Brodeur, his style and play.
I had a lot of anger toward him and the Devils from the mid-1990s when they were dominating and putting the sleeper hold on the Capitals and every other team. When they didn’t make the playoffs the season after their 1995 championship my schadenfreude kicked in.
When I started playing goal, Brodeur was the popular choice who goalies wanted to be like. They wanted to handle the puck like Brodeur, wanted to pass like Brodeur and wanted to score a goal like Brodeur.
Well really, despite the hefty curve on the stick, nobody in my league could really make the puck sail. At this time, the more advanced goalies were being led to more butterfly movements.
My head coach in midget hockey was from Quebec, he was a goalie and he had lesson plans and drills laid out for me. It was really the first time (and only time) I’d receive full organized instruction to play goal from a coach. The manager of the rink would also put me through drills when I was younger for the very, very basics.
I have the list somewhere around here, but he taught me a list of drills and movements from the University of Wisconsin. The Set of 18 warmup would go through all the basic movements I would need to make saves.
The only thing that would transfer to today’s goalies you see in the NHL would be the butterfly slide going from post to the middle or from the middle to the post. There was no such thing as the inverted VH.
This was paddle-down, single leg saves, two-pad stacks, standing saves and poke checks, baby.
These were the days when seeing Curtis Joseph, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Eddie Belfour and Marty Brodeur roamed the rinks. It was a great time in goaltending history. I modeled myself after Curtis Joseph–an underdog.
As the years went on, blocking butterfly grew, ultra-flexible goalies like Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price and Jonathan Quick took over.
It was only Brodeur and Tim Thomas left. And looking at the younger kids across the rink in net, I was more like Marty and Timmy than Price and Fleury.
The marked-up calf wraps from squeeze the puck between my pads, pads not totally rotating and an affinity for kick-out leg saves in a fluid motion or dazzling glove saves would remain in my repertoire, favoring reaction and athleticism over positioned-based blocking butterfly. My arms are up high while these new goalies would go low with their arms.
Marty still showed as recently as 2011-2012 that his way could backstop a way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Sure he lost in a 4-2 tough series. He went through another old school goalie Jose Theodore, butterfly nutcase Bryzgalov and butterfly boy Henrik Lundqvist to get to the finals.
If you want some appreciation for how long he remained old school, take a read through this lengthy article by InGoal Magazine. He went years without adopting knee stacks to rotate his pads correctly, wore a really old chesty and his equipment was undersized for years.
No thanks to CCM/Heaton/Reebok he had to get rid of his trademark opposite red/black pads with the Devils flame on it going to stock graphics until his one year paying homage to the pads with SherWood in 2011-12 before switching again.
His mask has maintained pretty much unchanged and in St. Louis, it will be a recoloring of his Devils mask with a fresh Blues note. Some fans don’t like it but I’m OK with it because he’s earned it as a legend. Marty never had a nickname like the Eagle, CuJo or the Cat like Belfour, Joseph and Potvin. They took their masks to each team and did an updated coloring even if an eagle didn’t make sense on the Sharks or the cat mask (and pads) with the Bruins.
Whether Brodeur is back just for one year or two, appreciate what the Hall of Famer can still do despite so much that people say about him is so wrong.