Martin Brodeur relishing ‘being a student’ in exec role with Devils

Legendary New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur officially inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, talking about this great honour and going in with such an amazing 2019 class.

TORONTO — Hugh Weber has a tradition he carries out every Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark. The president of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment — the managing entity of the New Jersey Devils — hosts a meeting where employees from across the organization stand around the team logo.

Members of the hockey operations department huddle next to people from ticket sales and finance while Weber offers updates about the latest happenings within the franchise. Additionally, a meeting staple is to bring new hires to the centre of the circle, where they introduce themselves.

In late summer 2018, Martin Brodeur walked to the Devils logo along with a young woman who just started in the club’s accounting department. The shtick was simple: They tell everyone who they are, where they’re coming from and then offer something about themselves that nobody knows.

“I’m Marty Brodeur,” said the Hall of Fame goaltender who spent all but one of his 22-year NHL career in New Jersey.

Laughter ensued.

“I used to work in St. Louis.”

The laughter continued.

“Up until a few years ago, I’ve never had a job in my life.”

The laughter rose.

Brodeur had just begun his role as executive vice president of business development. He was back with the Devils following three years in the hockey operations department of the St. Louis Blues, where he worked after retiring and eventually ascended to assistant general manager.

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The fact that the three-time Stanley Cup champion and four-time Vezina winner was eager to attend and participate in the standup meeting showed Weber all he needed to know about Brodeur.

“He’s willing to do that not because he’s going along with what his boss says. It’s because he knows that’s what it means to be a good teammate,” Weber says. “He knew better than anybody else. He’s going to lean in and help and stand arm in arm with somebody who might be much more junior and unknown. Those are things that impress me about Marty.”

That focus on the people around him was evident in the speech he gave at his recent induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

“Winning is all fun, but I think what you do in the community and for your fans is a lot more important,” Brodeur, with a Canada’s Sports HOF scarf draped around his neck, told an assembly of over 100 people.

In a conversation that day, the 47-year-old Brodeur, who is into the second year of his executive role, expanded on his speech.

“The beauty of what I do is I get to meet people,” he said. “We’ve done such a great thing as far as youth hockey around New Jersey.”


Brodeur’s position is more than simply an ambassador’s role. He’s exposed to wide-ranging business initiatives within the organization, from branding to international marketing to some “top secret” projects. But a primary objective for him has been fostering relationships between the team and youth rinks in the tristate area.

“It’s not like he’s just making appearances,” said Weber. “He actually led the strategy behind it — went out and met with the key stakeholders and understood what their challenges were, understood the unique issue of why they should partner with the Devils versus the Rangers or [Islanders].”

Brodeur essentially acts as a middle man between rink owners and the Devils. When Codey Arena in West Orange, N.J., was in the process of adding distinct Devils branding to its complex, the former goaltender personally ensured that murals, photos and jerseys of team alumni were installed throughout the building.

“He came in and said, ‘What do you want from us?’” says Steve Ruggiero, GM of the arena that served as the Devils’ practice facility during Brodeur’s playing days. “He was definitely on top of it. Once we got the ball rolling with that, he made sure to say, ‘OK, you know what, let’s make sure we get this done. I want this up by this certain date.’ And it was.”

Brodeur, who spends three to four days a week in New Jersey and the rest at his home in St. Louis with his wife and nine-year-old son, will occasionally drop by Codey Arena to observe the Learn to Play programs or youth tournaments. When he appears in the stands, the instant credibility he carries is obvious.

“To see a Hall of Famer like him walk into the rink, everything stops,” says Ruggiero. “He’s coming in to your facility, shaking hands with the customers. He’s a legend. Having him on site, during a weekend event where we have hockey from seven in the morning to six at night, him just popping in and saying ‘Hi,’ is great.”

With over 1,200 games served in front of an NHL net, Brodeur the executive keeps close tabs on the current iteration of the Devils. The club is off to a 2-5-3 start, placing them last in the Metropolitan Division, and there’s instability in the crease. Neither Cory Schneider nor MacKenzie Blackwood has claimed the No. 1 spot and the team’s 4.10 goals allowed per game is second worst in the NHL.

So, what’s it like for one of the greatest goalies ever to be watching from the sidelines?

“The fact that I’m leaving — I don’t live in New Jersey — helps,” he says. “I’m able to get away from it. But I have a great relationship with the hockey operation guys … I told them, ‘Tap into me whatever you need.’ I know exactly what their job is — I did it for three and a half years [in St. Louis]. I just retired and went right into hockey operations and [then] wanted to take a step back. I don’t wanna get back there. I’m helping out from a long way.”

Weber has sat privately with Brodeur on many occasions to watch Devils games and says their conversations never veer toward Brodeur being an arm-chair coach. Instead, they’re more likely to talk business.

Their relationship goes back to 2013 when Weber joined the franchise and Brodeur was at the tail end of his playing days. Weber noticed back then that Brodeur was naturally inquisitive — a personality trait that has informed his current role.

Weber says Brodeur has been an attribute in high-level executive meetings because he brings a fresh perspective and insights that tend to generate conversation around how the team meets its objectives.

“He has really put himself in situations that might not be comfortable,” says Weber. “He might be asking questions about something that might be rudimentary to everyone else. He might be walking into an environment he doesn’t know the outcome to.

“He’s willing to take not just the risk, but he’s showing humility to be put in that position of being a student.”

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And as an unlikely student, Brodeur has plenty of potential. That was evident to Weber in the beginning. Just as he carries out the tradition of introducing new hires around the Devils’ logo, he makes a point to meet with them frequently to learn about their short- and long-term goals.

“When I happen to have those conversations with Marty, I think he’s still at a point of discovery,” says Weber. “I think he is honing in on certain aspects. He did this as well on the hockey side. He understands what it takes to be a GM. He understands not just the hard skills but the soft skills he has to have; he understands the rigour and the steps and the cadence of what it takes. I think he’s still figuring that out on the team side.

“So, to be able to say he’s really honed in on this kind of role or that kind of role, I think he smartly and wisely said, ‘Listen, this continued exposure and growth is really good for me and let’s see how this develops.’”

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