MONTREAL – Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy were always thought to be rivals more than friends, but warmth was evident between them on the night they found themselves with 551 NHL goaltending victories.
Brodeur, one of the few goaltenders from Quebec who did not emulate Roy’s butterfly style, tied Roy’s record for career wins when his New Jersey Devils downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night.
Roy, the former Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche great, took time out from his job as co-owner, general manager and head coach of the junior Quebec Remparts to witness it at the Bell Centre.
Brodeur can break the record in New Jersey on Tuesday night – St. Patrick’s Day – when the Devils host the Chicago Blackhawks. Roy, though, will likely be back with the Remparts, who open a playoff series Friday against Baie-Comeau.
“I don’t see Patrick like other people do,” Brodeur said after the game. “I played with him, I’ve played against him, I’ve known him pretty good throughout the years.
“We’re not the closest friends, everybody knows that. We’re not guys who are going to call each other. We played in somewhat different eras. The six years in age between us makes a difference. But I was happy to see him today and every time I have a chance and we’re in the same room, we’ll take time to talk.
“He’s a guy I looked up to when I was young. And now, tying the record of your idol, that’s pretty cool. Not many athletes have a chance to do that.”
A note of bitterness entered their relationship at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, when coach Canadian Marc Crawford named Roy as the one and only starter.
Canada had lost in a shootout to the Czech Republic in the semifinals, and Roy was said to have insisted on playing in the bronze medal game even though it would have meant more to Brodeur, whose father, Denis, was a goalie with the Canadian team that won bronze at the ’54 Games.
Canada and Roy played listlessly and lost 3-2 to Finland. Later, Roy said Crawford chose him to start the game. Brodeur got his Olympic medal, a gold, four years later in Salt Lake City.
There were also some fierce games between the two, both in Roy’s time with the Canadiens from 1984 to 1995 but particularly the 2001 Stanley Cup final when Roy’s Avalanche downed the Devils in Game 7.
All that is in the past now. Roy, who retired in 2003, even visited Brodeur at the team’s hotel Saturday morning to wish him well.
“When you do these kinds of things, sometimes you don’t get to meet the person,” said Brodeur. “But I’ve got to know the guy.
“We had great battles. He took a Stanley Cup away from me, so it’s really cool for him to take the time. It showed a lot of class and it’s really appreciated.”
Roy was delighted that it fit in his schedule to be at the game
“I’m happy to be here to see it happen,” he said. “Nothing against Montreal, I know they’re in the middle of a big race, but it’s a great moment for the game.
“I’m sure Marty’s excited to have it happen in his home town, in front of his family. One day I’ll say to my grandchildren that I was there to see it.”
Roy went through a similar experience in 2001 when he passed the late Terry Sawchuk’s record of 447 career wins. Sawchuk’s family was there to see what some thought was the setting of an unbreakable record.
But Brodeur has been chasing Roy’s many records almost since he started as a full-time NHL player in 1993-94, piling up victories behind a strong, defensively airtight Devils team.
Roy holds the record of 13 seasons with 30 or more wins, one more than Brodeur, whose string of 12 in a row will end this season because he missed most the campaign with a torn biceps muscle that kept him out from Nov. 1 to Feb. 26. Brodeur holds the record for most 40-win seasons with seven.
Roy still leads in combined regular-season and playoff wins with 702, compared to 644 for Brodeur.
There has been debate over how records are kept. Sawchuk, who retired in 1970, played in an era without overtime. Brodeur has benefited from shootout wins.
But they are likely all moot points. Brodeur, 36, has three years remaining on his contract and if he stays healthy, he’ll certainly push goaltending records to heights akin to Wayne Gretzky’s scoring marks.
“He’s a machine,” said Roy. “The scary part of it is that I’m sure he has three or four of five good years in front of him.
“I think he has a better approach to the game than I had. At 37, I was thinking of retiring. He doesn’t think that way. He told me that missing those 50 games reminded him that he missed the game a lot.”
Brodeur said he has every intention of playing out the rest of his contract and maybe more. For now, his goal is to reach 600 wins, and “then we’ll see.”
But he recalls as a child biking into downtown Montreal to watch the Canadiens Stanley Cup parade in 1986, when a fresh-faced Roy backstopped Montreal to an unforeseen championship. He even had a poster of Roy on his bedroom wall.
Roy ended up with four Cups. Brodeur has three.
Brodeur, with two shutouts among his seven wins in eight games since returning from injury, is only three behind Sawchuk’s record of 103, although Roy leads him in playoff shutouts 23-22. Both of those marks could be gone by June.
“Patrick was a guy that everybody emulated and I was a guy that nobody did, so I don’t know who is the pioneer here,” Brodeur said with a laugh. “Patrick was somebody that all the kids and I looked up to for the way he played, how competitive he was.
“For me, God gave me a certain talent to play the game. I had a similar attitude to Patrick, just not as technical as him. I learned from a lot of different goalies – Patrick, Dominic Hasek, Ed Belfour – and tried to take from everybody and incorporate it in my game. I think I was able to do what other goalies maybe have trouble doing – adjusting to different styles. But everybody plays like Patrick, so figure it out.”