Back in high school, my friend’s kid brother — who was a pretty good goalie for his age — got to attend a training camp with Patrick Roy. I don’t think Roy was there much, but said kid brother reported back that one of the instructors, an already-drafted QMJHL goalie named Martin Brodeur, was going to be even better than Roy.
Naturally I was dubious. For Canadiens fans (which I was, as were this friend and his kid brother) Roy was practically royalty. We’d watched him talk to his goalposts on his way to a surprise cup in 1986 as a rookie. He’d won three Vezina trophies in four years. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d soon watch him win another cup in 1993, another upset for which he’d win his second playoff MVP award. Of course, I watched him leave Montreal in a blaze of ego, and then suffered through watching him win two cups (and another Conn Smythe trophy) with the Colorado Avalanche while my Canadiens foundered. He elevated a team with loads of talent which just couldn’t get over the hump, and delivered two cups to Colorado. When he won his fourth cup I considered him the greatest of all time.
But even then I know he might have a challenger. Brodeur won the Calder trophy as top rookie in 1994, and won the cup the next year. Brodeur was never as dramatic as Roy…no fiery exits from New Jersey, no winking at a forward he’d just robbed…just 18 seasons of all-star play. Four Vezinas (one more than Roy), two Stanley Cups, and the all-time records for wins, shutouts, and single-season wins.
I had posters of Roy on my wall. I had his jersey, and wore it to school the day after they won the cup in 93. I think I still have his rookie card somewhere. But when the CBC asked yesterday, “Is Martin Brodeur a better goaltender than Patrick Roy?” I had to say yes.
One never wants to decide between his hero and the man who knocks them off the perch, even on a topic as silly as hockey. But, unpalatable as that was, I realized how lucky I’ve been to watch (and see live, in Brodeur’s case) the two best goalies in the history of hockey play at the same time.