It was the end of the season for the Devils: no playoff run; Chico Resch’s retirement from the Devils telecast; and Martin Brodeur’s final game as a New Jersey Devil for the umpteenth time. Or was it?
In the 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins during the Devils’ final game of the season, there was no video montage celebrating Brodeur’s final game. Fans and media thinking this might be Brodeur’s final game as a Devil flooded Prudential Center. Fans chanted “Mar-ty,” “Marty’s Better,” and “Thank You, Marty” throughout the game. Even Resch received a few “Thank You, Chico” chants as the Devils honored him during his final game in the broadcast booth.
“It was a special night,” Dainius Zubrus said of the game. “It was nice to see the fans acknowledge that and see that. Every time they start cheering for Marty, you feel like [you want to] join the party, start to get up and bang the boards. He’s Marty.”
At the end, after the team saluted the fans, Patrik Elias pushed Brodeur out to center ice as the team lined up next to the bench to give the most winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL a final stick tap.
“We just wanted him to get out there and take a moment and maybe have a moment for himself with the fans,” Zubrus said. “It was nice.”
“It meant a lot,” Brodeur said of the fan reaction. “The relationship between the fans and I have been great through the years. I think them, showing their appreciation, it was really appreciated for me and my family and my friends. We’re all in the same boat a little bit. It was definitely a nice little ovation at the end.
“Emotionally, it was pretty hard. These people are my family.
“I feel bad. People are so into it. It’s kind of emotionally…it’s not easy. I was kind of happy to just be able to step out and kind of be with my own people a little bit. It was really appreciated the way the fans reacted.”
But if Brodeur was leaving the Devils or retiring…no one knows. Not even Mr. Brodeur himself. He spent ten minutes standing up on a podium trying to answer the media’s questions on what he planned on doing.
How much will his family influence his decision?
“A lot,” he said. “I think it’s important. These decisions are important. What you want to do and what they’re willing to do also, to see where our futures will be, I’ll have a good conversation with everyone that is any concern.”
He said that not being able to play much this season was the worst part of the season. He appeared in 39 games this season, while Cory Schneider appeared in 45 games.
“It was difficult,” he said. “Again, I think, in the position the coaching staff was in, with having two goalies who were number one, it just doesn’t work. It didn’t work in Vancouver. It didn’t work here too good. We didn’t make the playoffs. I think it’s important that when you have one good goalie, you give him the bulk of the work. [Schneider] will get that for now.”
Leaving the Devils will not be an easy decision for Brodeur.
“It was a little emotional. These things are hard. I spent all of my life here. A lot of the fans that are out there know me. They think they know me by my name, I feel they know me. They’ve been calling my name for 20 years. Every time they stop me and they talk to me. They’re great. For me, to see their kids grow also, it kind of means a lot. It’s something that’s a relationship that an athlete has with the people that supports them. It was definitely fun, but it was a little emotional.
“It’s a good possibility that if opportunities come in a different way…but I might not, too…depending on what I’m able to find out in free agency and what I’m ready to do, not many things, but there are possibilities for me. That’s what will take a lot of sitting down and thinking about it. It might be my last game as a Devil, that’s for sure.
“I’m going to take the first few weeks off and after that, I’ll get in contact with the people that I trust and that I want to make a decision with. Trust me, Lou [Lamoriello] is going to be the guy that I’m calling.”
When it comes to making a decision on which team he will sign with (if he returns for another year), it all depends on the number of games he’ll be playing.
“I think a ballpark of the amount of games I’ll be able to play. That’s the bottom line. I don’t want to prepare myself like I did this summer and get ready for a great season and then sit on the bench. But if I’m ready for 30 games next year in an organization, and the Devils can’t give me that, that’s going to be something that will probably make my decision easier or harder.”
“The region I want to go I would usually like to have the sun that’s more than four months a year. There’s a lot of places, but it’s something for me.
“Just the thought of playing against the Devils kills me. That’s one of the things that bothers me the most.”
As far as what he’ll do in free agency, he plans on taking some time before making a decision.
“I’ve done it two years ago. It’s pretty interesting. It makes you feel good. Hopefully, it will make me feel good this summer.”
When he heads to eventual retirement, wouldn’t it be better to retire as a New Jersey Devil?
“Yeah,” he said. “I think [I’ll take] everything under consideration when it’s time to make a decision. But I’ve thought about different things throughout my career and now it’s going to be time to think about me a little bit.”
What about his future working in the front office for the Devils?
“That’s something that always interests me, but I don’t think I’m ready at all for this. I’m just still in the game. These guys that are getting these jobs played a lot of hockey just like I did. I think our backgrounds are similar, but they’re a lot older than me. It takes time to be able to get to that status. It’s something that’s interested me. I’ll definitely pay my dues to maybe get that eventually.”
As of now, retirement isn’t weighing heavily on his mind. He feels he can still play.
“My mind is good. The kids enjoy watching me play. I’m having a lot of fun doing it. If the body holds up, might as well, because when I say it’s got to be over, it’s got to be over. We’ll see when that day will come. It could be sooner or later. You never know.”
How will the free agency period play out in his mind?
“It’s not out of the question that the Devils will be in the running for me to come back. I haven’t talked to Lou about it at all, what he wants to do as far as backing up for [Schneider]. Then again, if I am mentally ready to do that job [as backup], I’m going to look for the Devils a little bit. Right now, I’m keeping everything open. We’ll see. I’ll talk to [Lou] and see what he thinks is best for the organization. It’s not about me anymore. I’m free. He’s not stuck with me anymore.”
“If I sign somewhere as a backup, it’s not just to barely make the playoffs. It’s going to be a team to contend to win the Stanley Cup.”
For his team, he is the world to them.
“We definitely wanted to get a win for Marty,” Dainius Zubrus said. “I think we started the game good. The second period wasn’t the way we wanted to [play]. Before the third, we all talked about it and we mentioned a few more times that we forget all we have and get a win for Marty. It was nice for him to get off the ice the way he did.”
Many of Zubrus’ favorite moments as a Devil have nothing to do with his personal victories, it all has to do with Brodeur’s special moments, including his 552nd win. Brodeur means a lot to him.
“The way he carries himself in the locker room,” Zubrus said of what Marty means to him. “The way he is with all the teammates and all the young guys coming in, he’s one of the better teammates I’ve had. Honestly, I still hope we get to see him. Hopefully, he’ll decide to keep playing and maybe he’ll be here.
“If he’s not here, he’ll be really missed. I hope he is [here].”
“There’s few moments in my career that I remember,” Zubrus said. “This is one of the moments I’ll remember, even though it has nothing to do with me. It’s nice to be part of it.”
Lou Lamoriello announced during the final game that Peter DeBoer will return next season as head coach.