(HockeySTL) -- Departing the stage to a loud ovation from media, family members and alumni, Martin Brodeur officially concluded his press conference and his 22-year career on Thursday.
The future Hall of Famer, a former veteran of 1,266 games, holds records for just about everything goaltending-related. Most noticeably, his record 125 shutouts and 691 wins put him on a perch that is likely to go untouched for decades, possibly forever.
“Eh, it’s not bad,” said Brodeur modestly after admitting he would have loved to tally nine more wins and hit the 700 mark.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The goaltender had been contemplating retirement for years. Each time, something else rejuvenated his morale, his confidence that he could still play.
“Three years ago, I was ready to retire but a playoff run jolted my career back up,” said Brodeur. “I was able to get a two-year contract. The last two years have been hard. I didn’t enjoy it as much and I wanted to go to a place where I was happy and could leave the game when I was happy. I found that here in St. Louis.”
On a one-year, $700,000 deal, Brodeur was brought in by the Blues in early December to provide relief while starter Brian Elliott recovered from a knee injury. Had Brodeur not received the call from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, it’s possible his career would have ended even sooner.
“It was a big decision for me to make,” said Brodeur. “It’s been something I’ve thought about throughout the year. Jul. 1 came and I didn’t really get many opportunities and was a little selective on the teams I wanted to play for. As time went by, I was really thinking of retirement. I wanted to play but I knew it would be hard.
“One of the teams at the top of my list was the St. Louis Blues. Again, I jumped in right away and had a blast in the month I was here. They really took me in to their family. That meant a lot.”
Brodeur isn’t leaving the game for good. In fact, he will be assisting the man who gave the 42-year old a chance that led to three more wins and another shutout in just seven games.
“Marty has agreed to join our organization as senior advisor to the general manager,” said Armstrong. “He’s going to travel with our team on a daily basis. He is going to interact with our players, with our coaches.”
Brodeur will have a hand in everything, including: coaching preparations, trade and management decisions and team ideas. He will travel with management, attend practices and games. The difference will be his view of the action.
“The plan is touching on everything,” said Brodeur. “I am going to be at mostly every practice. I’ll be with the coaches, overlooking the preparation of a practice. Really, learning every facet of what a general manager needs to know. I’ll be with ‘Army’ on the road. I’m sure when it’s time for trades I’ll have input. It’s just touching on everything.”
Brodeur admitted he was surprised by the offer for the position. The decision came down to being a third goaltender for the rest of the season, only delaying the inevitable, or moving on with his career. When Armstrong extended the offer to Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender took a two-week leave of absence to determine the route he would choose.
“I was surprised because, for me to make an impression in a month-and-a-half and for him to trust me with this job, I’m pretty excited about it,” said Brodeur. “I didn’t expect that at all from a team. But when I came in, I came in all in. I didn’t hide. I was myself toward the GM, the coaches, the players.
“We talked and, for sure he wanted me to stay as a player. But it was getting hard. Everything happened in the last week when he offered me that. Everybody was wide-open about it.”
But the decision was an awkward one. Of his 22 seasons, Brodeur spent 21 of them with New Jersey, where he won three Stanley Cups and posted a 688-394-154 record. The Devils extended an invitation for Brodeur to re-join the organization at any time. Brodeur chose the Blues because he wanted to learn with more freedom and opportunity than he would have been provided with in New Jersey under general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“We talked and he knows that eventually we will cross paths again, whether it is next year, two years, three years,” said Brodeur. “I might not like this and might think that playing golf every day is better than doing this. I’ll make the decision on my future whenever it comes around.”
However, Brodeur isn’t turning his back to the Devils organization. He expects to return in some capacity in the future, if for nothing else but a final retirement ‘goodbye’.
“It would have been awkward to retire in New Jersey and take a job in St. Louis,” said Brodeur. “That’s kind of the way we went by it. For me, my hockey career is all about the Devils. Nobody is going to associate me with St. Louis as a hockey player. Retirement plans will be made for New Jersey in the future. I’m so appreciative of all of the fans, the opportunities they gave to me.”
For now, Brodeur is a Blue. He was presented with an alumni sweater, embraced by the organization and will be with the club for at least the remainder of the season. He won’t be on the ice, but for Brodeur it was time to move on from that aspect of the game.
“The thing about hockey for me is it is really competitive but I like to have fun,” said Brodeur. “I’m leaving the game with a big smile on my face. I don’t think if I had done this last year that would have been the case.”