Martin Brodeur claims the Olympic gold medal he won with Canada in 2002 means as much to him as his three Stanley Cup championships with the New Jersey Devils.
That’s why, when he got the call last summer, the future Hall of Fame goaltender was quick to agree to become an assistant to general manager Sean Burke for Canada’s 2018 Olympic men’s hockey team.
“Winning that first one in 2002, for me, it was as good as winning the Stanley Cups,” says the four-time Olympian, who also won gold in 2010. “To win Canada’s first Olympic gold in 50 years, leave everything out there and win [the equivalent of] three Game 7s was something, to be a part of that group.”
Sixteen years later, Brodeur has helped Burke build the 25-player roster that was announced last week. He’ll also hand over a scouting report on opposing goalies to head coach Willie Desjardins and his staff for the Winter Games next month in South Korea.
“This has been a fun experience,” the 45-year-old Brodeur says. “We didn’t know what to expect, but to watch and listen and talk about what type of players we wanted, what system the coaching staff wants to play, has been so interesting for me.”
After making the move from the ice to the front office, Brodeur is helping Team Canada go for its third consecutive Olympic gold, this time without the help of NHL players. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)
Another interesting development has been the number of former NHL stars staying in the game, whether at the management, scouting or coaching levels. Just look at how many of Brodeur’s 2002 Canadian Olympic teammates are still involved. Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis are on the management side. Adam Foote and Scott Niedermayer are assistant coaches. Joe Nieuwendyk is a pro scout.
“It’s neat travelling, going to different rinks and seeing these guys, talking to them about the game,” Brodeur says. “It’s a lot of hard work to be a manager or a coach. But as players, we had to have a good work ethic to be good, and we can use that trait in management or as a coach.”
Brodeur was a likable teammate with his breezy personality and astute hockey mind. He had a passion for the game and could tell stories and discuss his insights well into the night.
It came as no surprise to those who know him that, when the four-time Vezina Trophy winner retired as the NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender three years ago, he stayed in the game by becoming an assistant GM with the St. Louis Blues.
But why did he choose management over coaching?
“Probably because of my relationship with [former Devils GM] Lou [Lamoriello],” Brodeur says. “I liked having conversations with him about the organization and how everything works.
“Coaching was something I’ve never had much interest in. I’ve always been a big-picture guy, like a manager has to be. If I got off to a slow start and everybody was asking me what was wrong, I would tell them to come back and talk to me at the end of the season and see what my stats would be then.”
Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils between 1995 and 2003. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)
The Canadian team will need goalies with good stats in order to win a third straight Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, this time without the help of NHL players.
Ben Scrivens, Kevin Poulin and Justin Peters will have access to quite the tutorials from both Brodeur and Burke. The latter is also a former NHL netminder who, as a goalie coach for the Arizona Coyotes, groomed two of the best in the game right now in Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild’s Devan Dubnyk.
“I played in four Olympics and Sean played in two,” Brodeur says. “We know a lot and we’ll have a week to work with them in Latvia [at the team’s training camp].”
Brodeur can see himself one day running his own team. But for now, with an eight-year-old son at home, he’s having fun learning the management ropes alongside St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong.
Last week, the Blues held their scouting meetings in San Antonio, Texas, and in two weeks Brodeur will rejoin the Canadian Olympic team for its training camp.
“Every day I’m learning,” Brodeur says. “For me, this all happened very quickly [three years ago]. I didn’t have time to think about it or talk to anybody about it. I just took it.”
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