Friday, April 20, 2007

Brodeur and the Olympics - Part 1: Nagano

The introduction of professional players to the Olympic hockey tournament in Nagano created tremendous excitement. As always with Team Canada, there was a lot of debate as to whom would be the starting goaltender. Martin Brodeur looked to be a very strong contender for the position. He was almost 26 years old, and coming off an excellent 1996-97 season where he recorded a .927 save percentage and 10 shutouts, finishing second only to Dominik Hasek for the Vezina Trophy. In addition, he had been the #2 goalie at the 1996 World Cup for Canada, backing up Curtis Joseph, and many felt he was ready to take over for Cujo. There was one other goalie in the mix, however, and that was Patrick Roy, who was coming off a Stanley Cup winning performance in 1996, as well as another great season an a long playoff run in 1997. It was likely to come down to Roy vs. Brodeur for the starting job.

There was not much between Roy and Brodeur in terms of regular season play. Both had excellent seasons in 1997, and were playing well in 1998. Recent playoff success, however, favoured Roy. Brodeur had won the Cup in 1995, but missed the playoffs in 1996, and the Devils lost in the 2nd round in 1997. Patrick Roy won his third Stanley Cup in 1996, and went to the Conference Finals in 1997 with a stellar .932 postseason save percentage. It seems that this experience and big-game performance weighed heavily in Team Canada's decision making. On the plane to Nagano, Brodeur was informed that he would again be the backup. Roy was named the #1 man in net.

During the Olympics, Roy was outstanding. He posted a 1.46 GAA and a .935 save percentage throughout the tournament. Canada simply had the misfortune of running into a red-hot Czech Republic team led by Dominik Hasek at his peak, and was beaten in a semifinal shootout. In the bronze medal game, Roy wasn't great, but neither were his teammates as Canada lost to Finland. Brodeur wanted to play in that game, and many felt he should have started. However, before the game Roy had stopped 119 of 124 shots in the tournament (96%). Canada had given up just 5 goals in 5 games. There did not seem to be much reason for Canada to change; goaltending was one of their strengths.

Brodeur writes in his book that he never forgave Roy for demanding to play in all of the games in Nagano. It seems somewhat absurd to blame Roy for that, since it was the coaching staff that had the final decision as to whether he would play or not. In addition, Roy's play was outstanding. Brodeur would just have to wait, and hope to get a chance to unseat Roy at the next Olympics in four years time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wasnt the coach for team canada also roys coach for the avelanche? this, along with roys demand to play every game might have also been why roy got the nod. your arguments are valid, but lack credibility because you rarely give brodeur credit for anything more then possibly being "slightly above average". you gotta present both sides accurately, and you dont.