This is another older article I wrote that was never published. The way things look now Marty may just ride it out and retire having only worn a Devils' jersey. Let's hope for that. When this was written it was pretty much a foregone collusion he would finish his career elsewhere though. Take that into account when reading. Enjoy...
Michael Jordan is mentioned hundreds of times a week on sports networks everywhere. When's the last time you heard anyone talk about him as a member of the Washington Wizards? How About Emmitt Smith? Does anyone view him as a Arizona Cardinal? Does anyone fondly recall Shaquille O'Neal in a Phoenix Suns uniform, or Jerry Rice in a Seahawks uniform? The answer is no. And that answer is the reason why the concept of 'ruining a legacy' by playing past your prime is ridiculous and outdated. A prime example of that currently is one the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, Martin Brodeur.
Let's start with the facts. Martin Brodeur, without question, is one the greatest goaltenders (arguably the best), and greatest hockey players of our time. His list of accomplishments read longer than a grocery list for a Super Bowl party. 3 Stanley Cup Championships, 4 Vezina Trophies, 2 Gold Medals, the most wins by a goaltender in history (..and counting), the most shutouts by a goaltender in history (…and counting), etc, etc. Despite the growing list of achievements, he has also revolutionized the goaltender position. While he wasn't the first goalie ever to play the puck, I can say with certainty he is still the best to do it. The "trapezoid rule" (AKA most ridiculous rule in modern sports) was put in place because of the prolonged success of Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. It would be very difficult to argue otherwise. Marty has been mentioned a multitude of times, by his opposition, as a 3rd defenseman. He, to this day, still makes better outlet passes than a lot of actual NHL defenseman. Brodeur, unlike most goalies, never adapted to playing the butterfly, and plays a style uniquely his own. A style that, to this day, is maintained by his superior athletic ability.
Jordan, Smith, O'Neal, Rice. That list includes 4 hall of fame athletes. Why do we view these athletes as so great? Is it just their statistics? Their number of championships? I would argue otherwise. All the statistics matter, don't be fooled, but the dedication and work ethic these athletes put in to be the best in their craft is second to none. It is no doubt this list of individuals were blessed with incredible talent. However, their ability to maintain that talent for an extended period of time is what sets them apart from the rest. I am of the opinion that any athlete that dominant, for that period of time, should play for as long as they see fit. Did these athletes dominate their sports, like years past, when Father Time was pushing them into their 40's? Absolutely not. Were they out of place being on the field of play? Absolutely not.
The great thing about generational talents is that their love, and passion for the sport is what keeps them so great. They genuinely live for their sport, their craft. So when I hear people say "Marty should just retire" I see it as incredibly short sited.. As a person who has played hockey my entire life I am almost ashamed of that opinion. Hockey players should know better. Hockey is a sport that has 30+ and 40+ age leagues all over the country. It is one of the sports that once you start playing it is almost impossible to completely stop without regret. There is some 45 year old man sitting down with his friends right now in a locker room icing his knees and drinking a beer. How could that person possibly be of the opinion that Marty should retire? It's not that easy. Some overweight schmuck that can barely skate can always find a league to play in. If Brodeur retires from the NHL he is done with competitive hockey, likely forever. That thrill of competing is unlike any other thrill in life. If Brodeur was outclassed by every other goalie in the league I would change my tune. However, he could still start for a number of teams in the NHL, or be one of the best backup goaltenders in the league. Generally speaking, you don't walk away when you can still compete.
Sadly, it is time for Marty to walk away from the New Jersey Devils. Sports are a microcosm of life. Things rarely happen as they should. In a perfect world Marty plays his remaining games in the red and black jersey. That isn't going to happen though. Marty will end up signing with a team, likely in a backup role, and continue his career. The Devils' needed to move on and give Cory Schneider, one of the better goaltenders in the league, a chance to carry them into the Post-Marty era. Although it felt so wrong at first, I have come to grips with it being the best option for both parties. Next year will be interesting no doubt, as I can't, in good conscience, root against Marty Brodeur. Hopefully, if it is not the Devils hoisting Lord Stanley's precious trophy; It will be Marty sailing into the sunset as the champion he is.
I find it hard to wrap my mind around what 'ruining your legacy' means. Isn't your legacy what you leave behind, what you have accomplished, and what you are remembered for? Despite whatever happens in the next year or two, How could anyone argue that Brodeur's legacy isn't the following?
"One of the greatest goaltenders and hockey players in history, a generational talent, a 3 time champion, and the face of the New Jersey Devils."
Like it or not, almost everything of substance the Devils franchise has accomplished directly correlates to the years Brodeur has been their backstop. So if he spends a year or two wearing a blue, or green, or yellow, or purple sweater…So be it. Let the man add to the records he already owns, and ride off into the Hall of Fame on his own watch. At the end of the day Martin Brodeur is a New Jersey Devil, and we will see his true legacy, in all it's immortality, when it is raised to the rafters at the Prudential Center.