How Martin Brodeur’s career in goal almost never was

Legendary NHL goaltender Martin Brodeur joins Gene Principe to talk about having his number raised to the rafters and reflect on his career.

Martin Brodeur’s jersey was retired by the New Jersey Devils earlier this week.

However, Brodeur’s career almost never took off with the organization, according to a post he wrote for the Players’ Tribune on Friday.

“In 1991, the team lost Brendan Shanahan to the Blues in free agency. St. Louis needed to send some compensation back to the Devils as a result. Lou wanted Scott Stevens. The Blues wanted to send Rod Brind’amour and Curtis Joseph, who was in his early 20s at the time and had a long career ahead of him. If Curtis was traded to the team, my entire life would probably be very different.

But luckily for me, Lou seems to always get his way.

Former Devils general manager Lou Lamiorello’s pursuit of Stevens became a crucial addition to the organization as Brodeur and the Hall of Fame defenceman were stabilizing forces throughout the Devils’ era of dominance during the mid-1990s and early-2000s.

“Those early years with the Devils were so special,” Brodeur added. “It was fun. We knew people hated us. The opposing fans thought we were boring, the media thought we were the worst brand of hockey and the other teams never looked forward to taking the ice against us.

But we loved how much we were hated. Because if other teams and fan bases hate you, that means you’re doing something right.

Brodeur, 43, also looked back on how he became a goalie in the first place and told a fascinating story of how close he came to never entering the crease.

“It’s kind of funny the way it happened — the way I became a goalie. I was playing forward on this one team when I was little, and there was another team that needed a backup goalie. I mean, to me it just meant a chance to play more hockey, so I was all for it. My dad used to be a goalie. He actually won a bronze medal with Team Canada in 1956. So when I asked him, he told me to go ahead.

I ended up finishing the season on both teams, playing forward on one and goalie on the other. The following year, my dad dropped me off at the rink for my first day of practice. I’m only seven years old, hauling this gear that weighs more than me. I walk in, and my coach comes up to me and says, “Well, what do you want to do? Do you want to be a goalie or do you want to be a forward?” I look around, and my dad’s not there. It was all up to me. I just went with my impulse.

“I’ll be a goalie.”

The Devils are surely happy he stuck with his instincts.

Brodeur, drafted 20th overall by New Jersey in the 1990 NHL Draft, is just the fourth player in franchise history to have his number retired.