In neighborhood street hockey games or on the local pond, players used to put the smallest, slowest and least athletic kid in net. It was sometimes one of the older player's kid brother, a little to young to handle the bigger kids, so put him net where he was out of the way. Playing goal was the hockey equivalent of playing right field in baseball, you were a hidden liability, but still part of the game so you felt included.
It was the area you could put the worst player so he didn't hurt you too much. All he had to do was get hit with the puck or ball. Sure lots of kids complained, but for many of them they just wanted to play so a little pain from flying projectiles and players slashing and hacking around their feet, ankles and shins was the price you had pay.
As goalie equipment improved and the increased notoriety of great NHL goalies like Jacques Plante in Montreal, Glenn Hall in Chicago and Terry Sawchuk in Detroit, slowly but surely young kids were asking to be put in net. Soon goalies were so well protected that injuries, bumps and bruises from hard shots became less frequent and more and the NHL began highlighting the exploits of great goalies like Bernie Parent in Philadelphia and Johnny Bower in Toronto.
Young hockey players were heard on those same local streets and neighborhood ponds saying "I want to play goal and be like Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito." There was even a young hockey player in Quebec that idolized the great Canadiens goalie, Patrick Roy. That young kid would firmly plant himself between the posts and eventually grow up to become the greatest goalie in the history of hockey.
Here are the top 10 reasons Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie of all time.
10 10. Rookie of the year
Brodeur was selected 20th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1990 NHL entry draft. It is difficult to imagine today that 19 teams passed on Brodeur. Being a team's 1st round selection comes with a lot of pressure, but as a goalie there is a grace period as the position is so demanding, most young goaltenders need some seasoning in the minors before seeing an NHL shot.
9 Shutouts, Shutouts and more Shutouts
8 He made the trap work
Jacques Lemaire, the New Jersey Devils coach in the mid 1990's is credited with developing and popularizing the defensive system known as "the trap". It is a passive style that allows your opponent to control the puck in their zone, free from any pressure by forechecking forwards. The system allows them room and possession in areas of the ice that are less dangerous, sucking them in to try and break through your defense. That is when your team will pounce and counter attack quickly before the opposition is able to switch back to defense.
7 The Brodeur Rule
We only see it in international hockey now, but there was a time in the NHL when goalies were free to play the puck anywhere on the ice. There had been goalies who were adequate when handling the puck, but never sought it out. Most of the time goalies covered up loose pucks or just stopped pucks so backpedaling defenseman could easily pick it up. Brodeur made the option of dumping the puck into the end zone and chasing it down moot.
6 International Success
5 Played it straight
In the early 2000's with goal scoring going way down, the NHL began looking carefully at the equipment goalies were using. The issue was that many goalies were taking equipment past the protection stage. They were having shoulder pads and goalie pads widened and lengthened to help block pucks. Some goalies even had webbing put in under their arms to stop pucks when they lifted their arms up.
We tell kids it's about sportsmanship and fair play and that is very much true, but when you get to the ranks of professional, you only stick around if you get results. In professional sports it's all about, "what have you done for me lately?" Martin Broduer had eight seasons of 40 ore more wins. He had 14 seasons with 30 or more wins. He had 11 consecutive seasons of 35 or more wins and 12 consecutive seasons with 30 or more wins. All of those are records that he holds. Martin Brodeur is the only goalie with more than 600 wins in the NHL. Fans of the New Jersey Devils through the mid 1990's into the teens of the 2000's watched a lot of winning hockey and it was due in large part to having the greatest goalie of all time on their team.
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