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The great Martin Brodeur walks away

What to do when a legend retires?

This is what hockey fans across the globe now face with the retirement of all-time great goaltender Martin Brodeur this week. Of course, everybody knew Brodeur’s reign was coming to a close shortly. Brodeur played 21 marvelous seasons with the New Jersey Devils before partaking in seven forgettable games with the St. Louis Blues this year. Ultimately, his tenure with St. Louis will be nothing more than a trivia question.

Brodeur’s announcement was expected, but still hits so many between the eyes. It is a reminder that Brodeur will never be seen on the ice again, leaving behind a legacy for the ages. The departure is toughest for Devils fans. This is a brutal year in New Jersey, for players and patrons alike clad in red and black. The team is bad, the seats are mostly empty, and the attention will as always, be elsewhere. The only difference is this year, the Devils are glad the media is focused on other organizations.

Brodeur will likely return to the organization down the line and work under general manager Lou Lamoriello. Perhaps he will even take over from the Hall of Famer once his career ends.

All of that is for another time. For now, Brodeur’s career should be put in proper perspective.

The French Canadian with thinning hair and a famous chuckle leaves the game as the greatest to ever play. The records are multiple, the memories indelible. Brodeur has 691 wins, 125 shutouts, eight 40-win and 14 30-win seasons to his credit, all NHL records.

Additionally, the son of a long-time Montreal Canadiens photographer, Denis, has three Stanley Cup rings, five Finals appearances, two gold medals and four Vezina trophies, handed out to the game’s best goaltender. The list continues with five Jennings trophies (fewest goals allowed), a Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) and 10 All-Star game appearances.

Most importantly, Brodeur changed the game. He adopted the hybrid butterfly style, only going to one knee instead of two on low shots to allow better positional control. Brodeur is also the greatest magician of any netmider with the puck, becoming a third defenseman on many dump-ins before the NHL created a restrictive trapezoid. He scored three goals as well, another record for goalies.

All told, it is not a bad resume for a guy drafted 20th overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, the second goaltender taken off the board behind a better prospect named Trevor Kidd.

Brodeur will be remembered as one of the greats who reached his potential and conquered all comers. He will never be reminisced about in the same light as a Mats Sundin or Marcel Dionne, an all-timer to never win it all.

The hardest task to take on when talking about Brodeur is tackling his best moment. Many would point to 1995, when he and his band of unknowns swept the heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings in the Finals. It was the first brick in what would become a dynasty for the now-storied organization.

Perhaps it came in 2011, when Brodeur authored an improbable run behind an improbable team to within two wins of another Stanley Cup. The ending may have been sour, but beating Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals certainly was sweet.

Ironically the series ended on an overtime goal, with the home team celebrating and the beaten goaltender crestfallen, face down on the ice. The same way Brodeur found himself after the biggest gut-punch of his career, losing on a wrap-around tally by Stephane Matteau back when he was a fresh-faced 21-year old.

It seems Brodeur has rebounded nicely from that initial loss.

Now, we are left with the rolling credits of a great movie. All the patrons have begun emptying out into the darkness, left only to talk about what they had seen.

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