Sunday, February 24, 2002
Brodeur again proves he's a big-time goalie
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Martin Brodeur couldn't spot his father in the crowd during the closing seconds of Canada's gold medal victory.
All he saw were dozens of flashes -- any one of them possibly coming from the camera of a proud papa.
Forty-six years after goalie Denis Brodeur helped Canada win the bronze medal in the 1956 Olympics, Martin Brodeur did what his father couldn't.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner stopped 31 shots as Canada beat the United States 5-2, capping his emergence as a surprise Olympic star after arriving in Utah as a third-choice backup. Brodeur has already played in more than his share of high-stakes hockey games, but Sunday's victory was something special.
"As an athlete, you want to be part of great things for your country, but you've also got the motivation of family," Brodeur said. "We did a lot of great things today, and I can't imagine anything better."
Denis Brodeur, who later became a photographer for the Montreal Canadiens, instilled a love of hockey and Canada in his son. During a tumultuous winter, Martin Brodeur went from the verge of being left off the Canadian team to a starring role in its historic victory as his father -- camera in hand -- cheered with his wife and children.
"Every time I saw him, I saw it in his eyes," Brodeur said of his father. "He was really enjoying his time here, living it up. It means a lot to be able to do this with him."
Last year, Patrick Roy announced he wouldn't play for Canada. That opened the door for Brodeur, Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour -- but none of the goalies clinched the starting spot with outstanding NHL play.
Brodeur was having his usual solid season for the New Jersey Devils, but he never separated himself from the pack. He arrived in Salt Lake City simply hoping to play one game.
Canadian coach Pat Quinn elected to start Joseph, his goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the first game against Sweden.
It was Joseph's job to lose -- and he promptly did, allowing five goals in Canada's loss to the Swedes. Brodeur got the call against Germany, and held on late as Canada eked out its first victory.
Brodeur's confidence grew along with the Canadian team's improvement. He was solid through the final round, and he made no big mistakes during Canada's three elimination games -- typical of Brodeur's constantly solid style with the Devils.
"To be honest, I didn't know which way to go for sure," Quinn said of his decision. "When we made the change ... superstition and all sorts of things come in to play then."
Brodeur was at his best against the United States in the third period, when Canada was clinging to a 3-2 lead. With less than five minutes left, Brodeur nearly did the splits while sliding to make a spectacular toe save on Brett Hull.
Shortly afterward, Jarome Iginla scored the goal that finished off the Americans.
"A lot of people from New Jersey were giving me calls and going against their country today," Brodeur said. "There's just something to it that's really special. Tomorrow, I'll be back playing against all these guys, but for now, we're teammates."
Brodeur also has a special place in mind for his Olympic goal mask, which he nearly forgot to prepare.
About 10 days before the tournament, Brodeur sent a backup mask to a company that painted the Canadian hockey logo and the initials of his four children -- including his unborn child. On the chin guard were the names of two cities -- Salt Lake City and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
"It's going to be hanging right in my trophy room, right next to something that's flashing," Brodeur said as he fingered the gold medal around his neck. "I hope my kids will be impressed with this one."