As the 2010-11 regular season draws to a close, Martin Brodeur has a few things on his mind.
During the 2008-09 season, he said that he didn’t anticipate playing out the final year of his contract. Next season, Brodeur enters the final year in his contract.
With the inevitable elimination from the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout, the Devils not only faced one of their biggest defeats in their franchise history, but also had one of the best runs in sports history in the final half.
But as the games wind down, the realization sinks in…it’s time to dust off the golf clubs.
“It’s definitely a different territory for all of us to go into seven games,” Brodeur said. “Who knows if it’s going to be over come April 10th at six o’clock. You have to find that motivation to go out and I think the coaches have been really hard on us for the last few days to try to make us understand that we need to work hard and take this seriously.
“Guys are responding to it with the way we’ve been working at practice and we had this effort tonight. I think it’s important that you leave this season with a good face. I think we’ve come a long way playing really well in the second half. So let’s not try to destroy that. I think that’s the message [Lemaire’s] trying to push us towards.
“It’s definitely tough…you might as well try to win it.”
After having such a disappointing season, for some hockey players, the strong decision to hang up their skates weighs heavily on their minds. Brodeur isn’t getting any younger. There are very few goaltenders that are still playing at his age (he’ll turn 39 on May 6th). The question remains if he’s still at the top of his game. Many said during the season that he’s wearing down. Many wanted to blame him for the first half of the season. They needed to find some sort of scapegoat.
But Marty has proved the naysayers wrong.
“Right now he is at his best of the year…of the season,” head coach Jacques Lemaire said about Brodeur. “He plays with a lot of confidence, a lot quicker in the net. I’m sure he feels good about his game right now. All of that adds up.”
“Personally, I think he’s been playing me a lot…a lot more than I thought I was expected to play down the stretch,” Brodeur said. “But I think for me to feel the way I’m feeling, I feel real today. I’ve got to make a difference every game. I’m playing solid. I just want to keep it up for my own sanity, I guess.
“This summer, I’ll know that I was able to contribute, to be able to play to make a difference. I think it was hard on me early on in the season. For me, I’ve got two more games to go and I just want to play them well.”
“I’m used to better stats [than this year]. It’s bound to happen one year. Hopefully I’m reflecting the team.”
While most want to fault a goaltender for each team’s loss, others know that it takes a full team effort to win…and a full team effort to lose.
After all that’s happened this season, does Brodeur still feel the same way when he announced he didn’t think he would play out the final year of his contract?
“Yeah,” he said, standing by his comment from two seasons ago. “I’ve got one more year. I don’t know if I’ll make any decision [this summer or] next year either. I don’t have a clue if I’m going to commit myself to doing it or not. We’ll see how the next season goes. From there, I’ll see if I have enough or maybe just wait it out a little while.
“You know, it’s a decision when you quit playing hockey, I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of my friends that did…most of the guys I started with don’t play hockey anymore. You have to be ready. You don’t want to regret it. It’s not just the money. [Money] is a big thing, there’s no doubt about that, but I think it’s the way of life that you’re so used to…I want to make sure I’m ready for it. I don’t know if it’s going to be next year. It might be an extra year…if there’s a lockout…who knows…there’s a lot of uncertainty in the hockey world right now also. I’ll take my time. I’m not blocking any possibilities of coming back or going somewhere else and play or just hanging out.”
What would drive him to keep it going? Another Cup?
“Yeah…a Cup, the fun of it…the lifestyle. I love it,” he said. “It’s fun to play hockey. It’s fun to get that adrenaline. When I’m going to say it’s over, I ain’t getting it back. I have to be ready for it to give it up…to keep people watching. If they don’t want me, that’s a different ball game…then I’ll just walk away.”
After Brodeur decides to hang up the skates, many have stated that he’ll head upstairs to work in the Devils organization. Brodeur, on the other hand, said something completely different than what the ‘experts’ of hockey have said.
Is he heading upstairs? “Not right away, that’s for sure.”
Planning to go golfing? “Definitely.”
For Brodeur, there are other things on his mind for the beginning years of retirement. Those years are going to be spent focusing on the things he’s been missing out on during his hockey career.
“Just to enjoy my family,” he said of the retirement years. “I’ve got boys at that age right now. I want to make sure I have some experiences with them before I get back to working full-time.”
What all of this means is that as of now, Brodeur is not ready to retire. He is still the most winningest goaltender and the Shutout King. He’s not finished leaving his mark in the hockey world. He’s not finished making sure that no one beats his records.
Brodeur leaves the door open for possibilities for so long as he feels he can still play this game and win it at an elite level. But most of all, it still has to be ‘fun.’
Despite the Devils’ season, it hasn’t stopped him from wanting to play on.
Martin Brodeur is still playing at the top of his game. He is not ready to quit just yet.