Martin Brodeur has been a mainstay of the New Jersey Devils for the past two decades. He’s winding down his career, but he’s one of the all time greats. Number 30 was a big part of the Devils’ three Stanley Cups and has a shot at number four this season. But not only is Brodeur rare in terms of his play, but for the fact that he’s only suited up for one team in his whole career as well.
In this day and age of free agency and the salary cap forcing teams to pick between players to keep, Brodeur is oddity. Only 28 NHL players have played at least 1000 games with just one franchise and Brodeur is the only goalie on the list. His old Rangers rival, Mike Richter is second in goaltender games played with one franchise (666); Maple Leafs goalie Turk Broda is close behind at 629. After that, you have to go all the way down to another Ranger, Henrik Lundqvist (468 GP). So you see, it’s rare for the combination of goaltender longevity and sticking with one team.
Why is this? Some famous goalies started their career with a short stint in another city that they were famous with. Tony Esposito is most known for his time with the Blackhawks, but started out as a 25 year old rookie playing 13 games for the 1968-69 Canadiens. Billy Smith was the same way; he played five games with the Kings before being claimed by the Islanders in the 1972 expansion draft. Some like, Olaf Kolzig, wrapped up their careers in another city. Kolzig played over 700 games with the Capitals, but finished his career with an eight game stint in Tampa. Dominik Hasek did both, he made his name in Buffalo, winning six Vezina trophies. However, he started his career in Chicago and finished with Detroit and Ottawa.
But Brodeur won’t finish his career with another team. He’s an unrestricted free agent at age 40 and if he doesn’t come back with the Devils next season, he will most likely retire. It’s hard to even imagine him in another uniform and most teams looking for a goalie won’t be interested in a guy finishing up his career.
He’s also rare in the way he plays the puck. Brodeur’s one of the best puckhandling goalies of all time. Even with the trapezoid limiting his puckhandling, he still affects the game with his stick. For example, in the second round against the Flyers, he would clear out any Flyers dump-ins, eliminating many possible Philadelphia offensive opportunities.
It might be in one week or not for another couple seasons, but we’re nearing the end of the line for Marty. So enjoy his play while it lasts; we may never see another like him.