NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Shortly after Martin Brodeur was selected by the New Jersey Devils with the 20th pick in the 1990 NHL draft, the 18-year-old goaltender was confused.
He “didn't know where New Jersey was,” Brodeur recalled on Tuesday with his trademark grin. Twenty-five years later, he and the franchise are permanently linked.
The Devils will retire the No. 30 jersey of their longtime goaltender and erect a statue during ceremonies Feb. 9 at the game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Brodeur played 21 seasons for New Jersey, leading the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles (1995, 2000, 2003) and winning the Vezina Trophy four times as the NHL’s top goalie.
His jersey will join those of defensemen Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer in the rafters.
“I’ll be right beside the three defensemen who really helped me out be the goalie that I was,” Brodeur said.
Brodeur retired last season after playing seven games with the St. Louis Blues, where he now serves as an assistant general manager. He left the game with NHL records for games played (1,266), wins (691) and shutouts (125).
“Very few athletes attain these type of heights in any sport,” said Josh Harris, the owner of the Devils.
Also in attendance were CEO Scott O’Neil, President Hugh Weber, GM Ray Shero, coach John Hynes, the current team, plus several hundred fans.
“We’re here today to honor Marty Brodeur, who may be the best goalie to play in the NHL ever, maybe one of the best hockey players ever,” Harris said. '“I’d like to thank the St. Louis Blues for allowing him to come in. He’s always going to be a Devil at heart.”
In his last season in New Jersey, Brodeur compiled a 19-14-16 record with a .901 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average in 39 games, while splitting time with Cory Schneider.
Schneider is firmly entrenched as New Jersey’s No. 1 goaltender, having signed a seven-year, $42 million extension in July 2014. Last season, his first as a starting goaltender in the NHL, Schneider finished with a 26-31-9 mark in 69 games and had a .925 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average.
“My last season in New Jersey I didn’t play as much as I wanted to,” said Brodeur, who denied there was a rift between him and former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. “For good reason. Look at the guy you have between the pipes now. Because I didn’t sign back or didn't work right away (after retiring as an active player) with the Devils, people came to those conclusions.
“I took a step back and it worked out really well. I was happy I played a few games somewhere else, a different organization, to really have a stop in my career to say, ‘Wow, I tried it, I played somewhere else.’ Last year was time to retire, and I couldn’t be happier than I am now.”
He retired on Jan. 29 and was immediately hired as a Blues” special assistant to GM Doug Armstrong. In May, he was promoted to assistant GM.
The Canadian has now made his home in St. Louis. But he was asked if he could envision returning to the franchise and the state where he got his start.
“My kids grew up here, I still own a place here,” he said. ''We'll see what the future brings. I'm really happy with what I'm doing.”