Martin Brodeur takes rightful place in Hockey Hall of Fame

2000 Season: Martin Brodeur makes a kick save. (Photo by John Giamundo/Getty Images)
2000 Season: Martin Brodeur makes a kick save. (Photo by John Giamundo/Getty Images) /

The Hockey Hall of Fame announces its 2018 class on Tuesday, and Martin Brodeur is a lock, being the most influential player of his era.

Turn on an NHL game. You can’t stop seeing Martin Brodeur, even if you don’t know it.

Brodeur, who retired Jan. 27, 2015, has long been away from the ice. His memory has faded from the collective conscious, only brought up in highlight reels and moments like today, when he will be announced as the headliner in the latest Hockey Hall of Fame class.

Yet his influence will continue to touch every game as long as hockey is played.

Brodeur’s accomplishments are dizzying. He won three Stanley Cups, appeared in five Finals, was an All-Star 10 times and won four Vezina Trophies. He also holds NHL records for most regular-season wins (691), regular-season wins in a single season (48), regular-season shutouts (125), postseason shutouts (24), postseason shutouts in a single season (7), seasons of 20-plus wins (16), 30-plus wins (12) and 40-plus wins (8).

All told, Brodeur was dominant for the span of his career, winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie in 1994, and backstopping his New Jersey Devils to the Finals in 2012.

However, none of those feats rank among his finest. His most important contribution was his style  of play, forever altering the game.

Look at the ice, and notice the trapezoid behind the nets. Brodeur. Watch the goaltender drop to a knee making a save, kicking the puck to the corner. Brodeur.

Arguments will eternally rage about who the greatest goaltender of all-time is. Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante, Eddie Bauer, Terry Sawchuck and others have their backers. Brodeur is in that class, if not atop it.

But there is no argument about who changed the game most. Brodeur was Picasso within the crease, but he was just as magnificent beyond it. In the ’90s and ’00s with the Devils, the Montreal native routinely started odd-man rushes and helped his defensemen clear the zone with banks off the boards and pinpoint passes. It became a weapon, so much so that in 2004, the league mandated that goaltenders could only play in the puck within the trapezoid and above the end line.

The rule change was a direct shot at Brodeur, who for a decade had served as a third defenseman. His acumen forced opposing forwards to choose; dump the puck in and hope Brodue can’t play it, or skate in against Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. The result was New Jersey winning three Stanley Cups in nine seasons, largely on that back on that trio.

Despite being restricted for more than half of his career,  Brodeur managed to finish second all-time with 47 points as a goaltender, one behind Tom Barrasso. His two goals remain unmatched.

Additionally, Brodeur expanded upon the butterfly style of goaltending, something Roy revolutionized the game with in the mid-’80s. Before Roy, goalies typically remains in a standing position, kicking at the puck down low and hoping to make contact. With the butterfly, the goaltender dropped down on such a shot, kicking both legs wide.

Brodeur took the evolution a step further with a style termed the hybrid butterfly. Instead of dropping completely, the two-time Gold Medalist dropped to only one knee, allowing the other leg to kick the puck into the corner. The result was better body and rebound control, creating fewer second chances in front of the net. If one did appear, Brodeur was in a position to hop back to his skates or push off to stay square.

Had Brodeur played in Montreal or Toronto, New York or Los Angeles, he might have become an international superstar on par with other greats of his day. Instead, he labored in relative anonymity, showcasing his prowess in the swamps of East Rutherford. Unless you were a Devils fan, you likely only saw Brodeur shine come the postseason. In reality, his talents were a nightly treat, ranging from his otherworldly puck-handling to his majestic glove hand.

With his impending induction into the Hall of Fame, Brodeur will be thrust into the limelight once more. When the time for a speech comes, he’ll likely thank family and friends, coaches and colleagues. He’ll talk about great memories and great teams, indelible moments and lasting achievements.

In the end, Brodeur will walk off the stage to applause, leaving a lasting legacy behind him and an impact beyond his wildest dreams for all to see.