Brodeur, who grew up in an east-end suburb of Montreal, broke Bernie Parent’s 33-year-old record for wins in a season by a goaltender with his 48th victory against Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, however, is keeping pace with Brodeur.
Luongo, who grew up a stone’s throw from the Brodeurs in St-Leonard, Que., has 46 wins. And with two more games left, he could grab a share of the mark.
“They both deserve the record,” says Mario Baril, who coached Brodeur and Luongo as they made their way through St-Leonard’s minor leagues.
“I hope they both break the record, I hope that both win the Hart Trophy, I hope they both win the Stanley Cup.”
There is a little about St-Leonard that suggests why this small suburb produced two of the world’s top goalies.
Its most famous residents to date have been mobsters and the more notorious figures from the sponsorship scandal.
The streets are lined with lavishly decorated Italian restaurants that belie a community better known for its cuisine than its hockey prowess.
But for Luongo’s mother, the porous defence on St-Leonard’s hockey teams meant their goalies often came home smelling of rubber.
“I think they’re used to getting a lot of shots and they have to rise to the occasion just to have a chance to win,” Lina Luongo said in a telephone interview.
“It develops character . . . and when they get to higher levels they’re used to being under that kind of pressure.”
Despite going through the same minor-league system, Brodeur and Luongo have nevertheless risen to the top of the game using very different goaltending styles.
“Martin’s is a hybrid style,” says Baril, who played ball hockey with a young Brodeur. “He can goaltend standing up and he plays well around his net.”
Baril says because of Luongo’s bigger size, he is more comfortable using the butterfly style popularized by Patrick Roy.
“I think he has the best butterfly in the National Hockey League,” Baril says. “With his size he can control the play in front of his net.”
The seven-year age difference between Luongo and Brodeur means the two never played with, or against, each other until recently.
Still, it was hard for anybody in St-Leonard to ignore Brodeur’s rising fame.
The Brodeurs held a street party the first time their son won the Stanley Cup and the local arena where Luongo cut his chops has since been renamed after Brodeur.
That Luongo has now joined Brodeur among the league’s elite netminders is a testament to his determination, his mother says.
After all, Luongo only strapped on the pads for the first time when he was 12.
“I didn’t want him in nets because he couldn’t skate very well,” Lina Luongo says laughing. “I said, ‘How are you going to learn how to skate playing goalie?”‘
Luongo and Brodeur are each known to make cameo appearances around town during the off-season, often popping up for shinny games at the Martin Brodeur arena.
The close ties Brodeur maintains to his old neighbourhood has many locals eager to share in his highlight-reel career.
“He comes by every so often,” says Richard Roy, the Brodeur arena’s Zamboni driver and manager. “He’s a real simple guy, super nice.”
As for Luongo, his success represents more of a victory against the odds.
“Everybody in St-Leonard said, ‘Oh he’ll never make it because he’s Italian,”‘ Lina Luongo says. “He proved that it’s the fierce who make it, no matter what your name is.”