The slam dunk

Of the Class of 2018, there was never any ques­tion whether goalie Mar­tin Brodeur be­longed in the Hall

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE SIM­MONS ssim­mons@post­media.com

TORONTO — On Hockey Hall of Fame Fri­day, Mar­tin Brodeur stands a lit­tle taller, walks a lit­tle faster, talks a lit­tle louder and reaches be­yond the crowd. Even among the five greats be­ing in­ducted along­side him.

There may have been ques­tions about the elec­tions of Gary Bettman and Wil­lie O’ree in the builders cat­e­gory. There may have been ques­tions about Jayna Hef­ford, as there are ev­ery year about women and whether any will be wel­comed. There may have been doubts about Mar­tin

St. Louis, first time el­i­gi­ble, who is used to be­ing over­looked. And as for Alexan­der Yaku­shev, well, he’s been passed over for decades, so he’d prob­a­bly given up any hope in get­ting to the Hall, if he ever be­lieved it to be pos­si­ble.

But it’s dif­fer­ent for

Brodeur. He’s dif­fer­ent, he’s an out­lier, an orig­i­nal: The slam dunk of this class. The slam dunk of any class.

If his vote wasn’t 18-0 among the Hall se­lec­tion com­mit­tee, then whomever voted against him should be asked to leave im­me­di­ately.

There has never been any­one like Brodeur be­fore, and there may never be any­one like him again. The way he played. The num­ber of games he played. The style he played. The records he broke. The way he moved the puck.

I never thought any­body would beat Terry Sawchuk’s mark of 103 shutouts. Brodeur ended his ca­reer with 125.

I never thought any­body could start 70 games, year af­ter year. Brodeur did it 12 times. The gi­ants of his day — Patrick Roy, Do­minik Hasek, Ed Belfour — com­bined to start more than 70 games four times.

He played a style you can’t re­ally ex­plain. The best of­ten do. He wasn’t a copy­cat but­ter­fly goalie the way so many NHL goalies are to­day.

He wasn’t a standup goalie, the way so many who came be­fore him were. He was a lit­tle of this and a lit­tle of that.

He was some­thing of a hy­brid, a part stand-up, part­but­ter­fly goalie who rocked back and forth on his skates. When asked on Fri­day what his style was, he laughed and said: “Who knows?”

When he came to the end of his ca­reer — and he stayed for ev­ery last sec­ond he could in the NHL — he had more wins than any goalie who had ever played. Of all his marks — the three Stan­ley Cups, the four Vez­i­nas, the rookie of the year, the two Olympic gold medals — that’s the one that mat­ters most to him. Brodeur was prag­matic to the end of his ca­reer.

“I don’t care what you say, if your goalie isn’t stop­ping the puck, you’re not win­ning the game, said Brodeur.

It sounds both ba­sic and sim­ple, but it’s nei­ther of those things. New Jersey never had to worry about who was play­ing goal, or what kind of goal he was go­ing to play: He started 1,471 games, reg­u­larsea­son and play­offs, and he hap­pened to be on the win­ning team 804 times. Hasek played in 854 games in to­tal, and would be top-three on any­body’s list of the great­est ever. Brodeur, as al­ways, is in the con­ver­sa­tion.

“I was the best,” said Brodeur. “Just ask him (my dad).”

He is the Hall of Famer of Hall of Famers in this class. A son of a goalie, whose dad the won­der­ful pho­tog­ra­pher, passed away five years ago.

“You wish that every­body you love and who sup­ported you could be here,” said Brodeur. “For me, I’ve lived so many ex­pe­ri­ences with my fam­ily through the Olympic games and Stan­ley Cup runs and the NHL awards. I know this is the big­gest one. They’ll be up there and they’ll en­joy it.”

He was talk­ing about his fa­ther De­nis, the goalieturned-pho­tog­ra­pher. He was talk­ing about his brother Claude, who passed away not that long ago.

This is some­thing you’d want to share with ev­ery­one and, qui­etly and pri­vately and out­wardly, he is shar­ing the week­end with those who have made it here, and those who are gone.

Of his fa­ther, who played goal for Team Canada at an Olympics, Brodeur said: “I think he lived, what he wanted to live, through me.”

Brodeur, who now works on the busi­ness side of op­er­a­tions for the Devils, watched the Leafs game on Fri­day night while sit­ting be­side his long-time goal­tend­ing coach Jac­ques Caron. Lou Lamor­iello, who drafted him, is com­ing for the cer­e­mony on Mon­day, and so is for­mer coach Larry Robin­son.

It’s a time to cel­e­brate, a time to take stock of ev­ery­thing that has hap­pened, a time to re­flect on who is here and who isn’t. A time to re­al­ize how goal­tend­ing has changed, how hockey has changed, how a game that once had Brodeur, Roy, Hasek and Belfour doesn’t have a de­fin­i­tive best goalie any­more.

A time to take it all in, the adu­la­tion, the cel­e­bra­tion, the once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence.

“This is as good as it gets,” said Brodeur, flash­ing his brand-new Hall of Fame ring. “This is the ul­ti­mate. This is a great mo­ment.

“And this is it, the last hur­rah, the last recog­ni­tion I’m go­ing to get.”

ERNEST DOROSZUK/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Lanny Mcdon­ald (left), chair­man of the Hockey Hall of Fame, presents leg­endary goalie Mar­tin Brodeur with his ring yes­ter­day. Be­low: Brodeur won three Cups with the New Jersey Devils.

GETTY IMAGES FILE

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