New Jersey Devils' enforcer Cam Janssen's first meeting with legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur was a little bit ... different from some of the other players at Stanley Cup Finals Media Day in Newark Tuesday.
"I remember meeting him in the shower for the first time," he recalled, perhaps only half-jokingly. "It was pretty bizarre. It was a pretty intimidating thing. It was pretty creepy, because I just kept staring at him. He must've been looking at me like 'What are you doing?'"
Janssen and Brodeur are friends now, but some things never change.
"I still stare at him."
All kidding aside, Janssen's non-hygienic memories reflect a lot of the younger Devils' feelings about their 40-year-old, future Hall of Fame netminder. Janssen spoke about life growing up in St. Louis, where "You cannot not hear his name. The first time I saw him in the locker room, it was very intimidating."
Thanks to a long career and four Stanley Cup Finals appearances -- this year's will make the fifth -- Brodeur's teammates comprise players who watched him during their formative years. Growing up, he was the world's best goaltender, and perhaps -- after the retirement of Wayne Gretzky -- one of hockey's most well-known names through his Stanley Cup wins and Olympic gold medals.
The way rookie defenseman Adam Larsson remembers him might be a little bit more telling about the younger generation: "Through NHL on PlayStation."
Fellow Swede Jacob Josefson also first heard of Brodeur through video games. Larsson also had a more old-school memory of playing as Brodeur as a young kid. "He's goalie you wanted to be [while playing] with your friends."
Forward and 30-goal scorer David Clarkson's father was a goalie, so he and his dad quickly took note of the Devils stalwart. "Growing up, he would always look at the goalies," Clarkson said. Arriving in New Jersey, there was definitely a sense of seeing Brodeur as a superstar. "I was nervous," Clarkson said. "When you sit across from a guy who's gonna go down as one of the greatest goalies to ever play, it's exciting."
Eastern Conference Final overtime hero Adam Henrique is 22, the same age Brodeur was when he first emerged onto the national spotlight during the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when New Jersey lost that heartbreaking, seven-game series to the New York Rangers. Henrique was only four back then. "I see all the clips, and it's funny, knowing now that he's my teammate," he said. "It's pretty cool watching him."
Ken Daneyko was also a major part of that 1994 Devils team. He's been a Devil for life, playing with Brodeur as a defenseman until his retirement in 2003, and then watching closely as an analyst for MSG Plus ever since. His first meeting with Brodeur came in their first training camp together, where Brodeur came with some hype, not only from being a first-round draft choice in 1990, but also with the level of confidence he came in with. "Just with the way he carried himself," said Daneyko, "But nobody anticipated him going down as maybe the greatest goaltender of all time. You could see right away, he exuded confidence and he believed in himself."
There are many debates about what has made Brodeur great over the years, but a lot of it comes down to his unique style. It's only a half stand-up, but never fully a butterfly that is more Dominik Hasek than Patrick Roy nowadays, as exemplified with Brodeur's stunning, desperation kick save on Marian Gaborik during the Eastern Conference Final.
It is a way of playing the position that Los Angeles Kings goaltending coach -- and former goalie himself -- Bill Ranford says will never be matched or emulated again. "I just don't think you'll ever see anything like it again," Ranford said. "All around the world, goalie coaches start from such an early age, and these kids are well trained," which would prevent them from developing a more freeform style on their own, and settling into something rigid, usually the classic butterfly style."
Players young and old can agree that although Marty's style is all over the place, he's remained consistent in his ways as a goaltender and a teammate over the years. Petr Sykora, who played with New Jersey from 1995 through 2002 and has now returned to New Jersey for this year's run, says the goaltender remains what he saw all those years ago. "Marty is Marty," he said. "Nothing's different, nothing really changes."
It's the commitment to style that makes Brodeur so imposing to Devils who have just started their careers, who are close to ending them, or who have even retired. That why he's a living legend at the most pressure-packed position in sports. Well, that ... or whatever it is that Cam Janssen saw the first time that they met.
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