Warning: long post with lots of pictures and exclamation points!
St. Patrick’s Day evening at Prudential Center (aka, The Rock) in Newark, NJ. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is tied with Patrick Roy for most games won in an NHL career (551). Tonight could be the night Brodeur breaks the record. AND I WAS THERE!
Here’s Brodeur stretching before the game begins. He said he was thinking he just wanted it to be over, not to drag on for two or three or four games. He didn’t want breaking the record to become a disturbance to his team. Because he’s all about being a team player.
The Devils jump out to an early 1-0 lead with a goal by captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Below you see the team in full defensive mode around their future Hall of Fame goalie.
Travis Zajac scores a second goal, and The Rock is rockin’! When Patrik Elias (below) gets an assist on a goal by Brian Gionta, HE breaks a record: for most points scored (702) by a Devils player, beating John MacLean. Very appropriate on St. Patrick’s Day!
The crowd chants “Pat-rik El-i-as!” over and over again.
Then the audience goes back to cheers of “Mar-ty! Mar-ty!” and “Mar-ty’s bet-ter!” and “Thank you, Marty!” as Brodeur makes the save.
Everyone’s feeling really good until Chicago scores TWICE and makes the game tight at 3-2 (the score with which Marty most frequently wins his games, BTW). Now the crowd is tense and focused on every move in the game.
When there are only seconds left in the game, Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador has had enough of the tension and literally falls on the puck to put an end to Chicago’s scoring chances. The buzzer sounds. Marty leaps straight up into the air. The crowd goes insane. The Devils swarm their goalie to congratulate him.
Marty saws away at the net to take it home as a souvenir of his record, a tradition the former record-holder Patrick Roy began. However, hockey nets are sturdy since they’re meant to stop pucks flying at 100 miles an hour. It takes a couple of teammates’ help (including backup goalie Kevin Weekes below) to finally free the cording from the frame.
Here’s a happy Marty with his net, skating off the ice.
It still gives me chills thinking about the emotion in that arena last night. Martin Brodeur could have a gone to a lot of other teams and made a lot more money (in fact, the goalie playing opposite him last night makes more than our Marty) but he’s stayed with the Devils for his entire NHL career. He’s considered a very normal, affable guy (which is unusual amongst goalies who tend to be weird and idiosyncratic). Maybe his comment about why he’s stayed says it the best: “I never thought about going somewhere else because my grass is green enough here.” There you have the philosophy of the greatest goaltender in NHL history.
And I was there.