Over the weekend, Martin Brodeur won his 650th regular season game. Soon he'll win his 651st, which will elevate his total to an even 100 wins above that of Patrick Roy, his nearest competition in the record books. Victories 640 through 650 have all come after the All Star Break, a stretch during which Brodeur has gone 11-5-1, with a .985 GAA and .925 save percentage. In the process, Brodeur has transformed an injury-riddled season that could have marked his long career's end into an unexpected hurrah that may not even be his last. (To write next season off seems unfair, especially if the Devils manage to lockup All-American Superstar Zach Parise).
It can feel, at times like this, that Martin Brodeur is infinite. Indeed, I can hardly imagine—much less, as somebody who was born in 1986, remember—an NHL without him. Brodeur's NHL goaltending career stretches back to the 1991-92 season when he appeared with New Jersey as a 19-year-old for a handful of games. After a year of seasoning in Utica—who among us would not benefit from a year of seasoning in Utica?—Brodeur made his real NHL debut in 1993-94, winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, and leading the Devils to an unlikely appearance in the conference finals. The rest is both ongoing and history.
But what about the pre-history? Before he was a ubiquitous presence in NHL creases; even before he played three seasons for Saint Hacynth-Laser, a now-defunct team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Mario Lemieux once scored 282 points in a 70 game season playing in the QMJHL), Brodeur was, like most of us, a child. And thanks to his father Denis—an Olympic Bronze-medal winning goaltender for Team Canada in 1956, and later professional hockey photographer—that childhood is extremely well-documented.
On MartinBrodeur30.com, Brodeur's official website, there is a section called Dad's Corner. It's basically the kind of thing any proud parent might put together: a scrap book of anecdotes, photo galleries, and the like. Except most fathers aren't well-regarded hockey photographers and most sons aren't Hall of Fame-caliber hockey players. The result is a look at Brodeur's childhood that is completely liberated from cynicism. The stories section is my favorite, and the fact that the stories themselves seem translated roughly from French only makes them more charming. Each is accompanied by a photo.
It is while playing hockey in the street that Martin gets a taste of the game. Along with his brother and his friends, with whom he still remains in contact, he played for long hours stopping only to eat. As a tiny toddler, Martin was using my old equipment and caught the puck with his right hand; he changed for the left hand when he got his own equipment with his Novice team.
Some of the photos and captions are just old-fashioned parental bragging:
I always liked to attend my son's hockey games with my camera. The family album contains lots of photos. Here is Martin making a split save with his St-Leonard Atom hockey team, he already had style.
My personal favorite is this shot of teenage Brodeur rocking the OP cap in celebrated company. His brother Denis Jr. one-ups him with a sleeveless Iron Maiden shirt. Baseball-wise, his other brother Claude one-upped both of them: he was a minor league pitcher in the Expos system.
Each winter Martin and Denis would spend one week at West Palm Beach during the school break. I used to bring both of them to the Expos training camp where I was working as a photographer. I took this picture with Pete Rose and later had it autographed for them.
These are the kinds of pictures and stories that, had Martin Brodeur did not become an all-time great goaltender, would have made him cringe. They might make him cringe anyway. The site also has recipes from Brodeur's mother that I have yet to try my hand at and photos from Brodeur's father's playing days dating back to the 1930s. It's good, every once in a while, to see a piece of an athlete's life presented without spin or ulterior motive.