New Jersey legend Martin Brodeur will forever be remembered as one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game, winning three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophy titles in his Hockey Hall of Fame career.
But since retiring in 2015, the masked man has kept busy. Shortly after ending his career with St. Louis, Brodeur joined the Blues as a special assistant to GM Doug Armstrong, leaving the franchise last summer to join back up with the Devils. A year into his role as executive vice president of business development with New Jersey, Brodeur spoke to The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy about his new role, the future of the Devils and his own experiences with the draft.
Ryan Kennedy: What do you see with this franchise right now and where it’s headed?
Martin Brodeur: I think that the tougher years are behind us. I think it took a while when Ray (Shero, Devils GM) came in to get rid of some of the contracts and some of the older players and sort of revamp the team with some of the draft picks that he was able to get with the trades that we made. Now we can see that it’s paying off a little bit, even though we had an off year last year. I think that we’ve learned a lot about our young players and we’re really excited about what we saw. Obviously having the first pick overall is going to help a little bit and we’re in a position now where we’ll be better every single year and hopefully, within a few years, we’ll be good contenders for the playoffs and then the Stanley Cup.
RK: What does all the chaos that happened in the playoffs tell you about the parity in the league and what it means for the Devils?
MB: Well that’s the beauty of this, the salary cap era kind of puts a lot of teams in the same state. You know, it’s important when you have to build through the draft if you want to be successful. When you look at the teams who are having success in the playoffs or making the playoffs every year, a lot of their players are coming from their minor league systems and through the draft, so it’s important for franchises. But obviously, you just got to get into the playoffs and it showed this year that you never know what’s going to happen when you get there.
RK: Is it interesting for you to see the change from the Devils being more team-driven to now marketing individual stars?
MB: Yeah I’ve played in that system under Lou (Lamoriello, former Devils GM) where everything was kind of team-first and nobody was really above the team. But I’ve seen other organizations do things differently. It’s a different age now. I’m on that side of the game and I understand what players want and need. I think that’s one of the things that I’m able to help with in my new role is to get people to understand that there’s ways of using our players and to market our players. We have young players and they need to reach out to the community, for them to be more present, to help out and by having me around to know what the limit is. Their first job is playing hockey and we need to understand that, but they do have a responsibility to the fans and our organization to be part of it too.
RK: How are you enjoying your new role?
MB: (laughs) Yeah, it’s been good. It’s definitely a lot less pressure than I’m used to. Being in hockey operations with St. Louis and playing hockey all my life, this is kind of a nice, relaxing role. You still have a little bit of the juices when you go to the games, but when it’s over, it’s over. It’s not like I have anything to do with the hockey part, but it’s fun to be back in New Jersey. I left for four and a half years and came back this year and got to see all the familiar faces and this is where I belong.
RK: What do you remember about your draft experience?
MB: Well, it was a little nerve-wracking. I flew in with my dad and my agent. I was ranked 30th overall, the second goalie behind Trevor Kidd and I was the second goalie drafted but it was 20th overall, so that kind of a little surprise to go in the first round. But it was exciting. I wasn’t really sure where New Jersey was at the time (laughs) but it’s such a great event. You know, it’s funny, you’re all excited and then you understand when you start going to training camp that you’re just a number and you gotta make that number count. That’s kind of the attitude that I had when I started in the minors and went back to junior, I gotta be relevant here. Yes, I’m a first round pick but you still gotta show that you belong there. It was a fun process to go through, a little bit nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, for all these young guys that are going through the draft, it’s not the end of the world what number you’re getting picked, it’s how you get to the NHL. But obviously this is a dream come true and a lot of work is put in by these kids and then just to hear their names, it’s a pretty special time.
RK: How did the moment where you got to announce that your son was drafted by the Devils come together?
MB: I was just sitting in the box and Lou called me up and said, “Listen, I gotta talk to you, come down to the table.” So I came down and he says “we’re going to draft Anthony, would you like to announce his name?” And so I kind of sat there for 15-20 minutes before and I thought “how am I gonna do this?” But I got to announce Anthony’s pick so it was a lot of fun. It was great to see him come down and see our family going crazy and he gave me a big hug. The whole thing was pretty cool.
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