I have a friend who plays hockey and is a hockey fan. He knows most of the good players in the league. He told me recently that his favourite goalie was Martin Brodeur.
For interest’s sake, I began to question why, and he said that he just enjoyed watching him play. He watches hockey occasionally, but isn’t a hardcore fan by any means, so I asked when in particular that was. He responded, “In the Olympics.”
I suspect there are many Canadian hockey fans that have a similar perspective. After all, who wants to watch the New Jersey Devils, unless one’s goal is to fall asleep? Even now, I would guess most fans see Brodeur a couple of times when he is playing against their favourite team, and the rest of the time only on Sportscenter. Brodeur’s gold-medal winning performance in 2002, probably more than anything else, including his Stanley Cups, is responsible for defining him and creating the perception of him as the best goaltender in the world. If Curtis Joseph had backstopped the team to gold five years ago (or for that matter, if Patrick Roy had agreed to play in the first place), I doubt that there would be this level of unanimity in terms of the best goalie in the game today, even given Brodeur’s current season and his dominance of the traditional team-dependent goaltending statistics.
In a coming series, I will revisit Salt Lake City and show why Martin Brodeur was very fortunate to be given that opportunity, and how it became so career-defining.