NEWARK, NJ – The New Jersey Devils concluded a three-day celebration of hockey’s winningest goaltender, Martin Brodeur, with a ceremony retiring his number 30 before Tuesday night's 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in front of a sellout crowd at the Prudential Center.
“It feels good to be back, it brings great memories,” Brodeur said, while thanking the fans and the Devils organization in his speech.
Brodeur, who led the franchise to three Stanley Cup Championships (1995, 2000 and 2003), was joined by former teammates Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer in the prestigious honor. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner and Calder Memorial Trophy winner holds numerous NHL records, including all-time regular season wins (691), shutouts (125), and games played (1,266). He finished his career with 140 more regular season victories than Patrick Roy, the former record holder, who was inducted into the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.
“The banner here tonight celebrates all of his remarkable and wonderful achievements and it will serve as a permanent reminder to future generations of fans that Martin Brodeur was truly one of a kind,” suggested NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a pre-game speech. “Whether it was the poke check, his glove or the two pad slide, Marty knew how to stop the puck like no one before him and I dare say no one who will come after him.”
In addition, ‘The Salute,’ a larger-than-life bronze statue of Brodeur raising his stick to purportedly acknowledging fans was unveiled at the Prudential Center on Monday and on display for the ceremony. The statue will now live forever outside the Devils arena on the corner of Lafayette and Mulberry after exterior renovation.
The festivities kicked off on Saturday, February 6, the day after Brodeur arrived in New Jersey, in which he held laced up the skates and hosted a private hockey clinic at the AmeriHealth Pavilion practice rink for dozens of 12-year-old kids. Two days later, he made an appearance in Jersey City launching the Denis Brodeur Sports Photography Program at Henry Snyder High School, a course created in his father’s honor, who was a renowned sports photography and longtime photographer for the Montreal Canadiens.
“This is as good as it gets,” proclaimed a thankful Brodeur of the Devils organization in the post-game press conference. “I wish everybody that gets their number retired could go through a weekend like I did because it’s a blast.”
The Devils netminder for more than two decades felt a sense of closure seeing his number rise to the rafters.
“You look at your number going up and this is it,” said an emotional Brodeur. “You think your career is going to be forever; you take it for granted when people yell your name. When it ends, it ends pretty suddenly.”
Devils alternate captain Patrik Elias, who played with Brodeur for 17 years called him the ‘heart and soul of (the Devils) organization.’
"He was a pure, prototype Devil," explained the 73-year-old former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello (1987-2015). "What I mean by prototype Devils is that the name on the back of the shirt never got confused with what the logo in the front meant."
The standing ovation that Brodeur received at the Prudential Center on Tuesday was reassurance of what he meant to the fan base.
“Marty talked to me about some of the things I did and I talked with him a little bit; he gave me some pointers,” said 11-year-old Kevin Toye of Brick, NJ, a participant in the private hockey clinic on Saturday, who had vivid memories of watching Brodeur play. “I kind of learned about coming out of the net and facing more shots. I got more glove saves than usual, so I learned that if I come out, it will be better (for my game).”
The future NHL Hall of Famer had a mutual feeling for the fans, thanking them in a full-page advertisement in the Star-Ledger today.
“You helped make this great state my home and gave me memories that will last a lifetime.”
If it wasn’t official before, it is now. Brodeur has been immortalized as the Devils’ greatest player and with a goaltending resume as strong as his, perhaps the best that there’s ever been.