By Gareth Bush
Hockey fans continue to debate who should start in goal for Canada at the Olympic Games and for the first time in two decades, Martin Brodeur’s name won’t be part of the discussion.
And that’s just fine with him.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve done a lot for Team Canada and in return they’ve done a lot for me. But it’s time to move on for something else and enjoying the time off will be well-appreciated this year.”
Hockey Canada didn’t do the unexpected by selecting Roberto Luongo, Carey Price and Mike Smith as the goaltending trio for the Sochi Games. Notable names like Corey Crawford, Josh Harding, Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby also garnered consideration for the third spot from fans and media alike.
The Canadian hockey world can be a loud and rambunctious place, with people debating every possible aspect of their Olympic team at the top of their lungs. But without making much of a whisper, Brodeur was exempted, ending an era.
Ever since suiting up as Patrick Roy’s backup in the 1998 Nagano Games, Brodeur’s been a fixture in Canada’s Olympic hopes. He backstopped his country to a gold in 2002 and contributed to another in 2010. But Brodeur understands it’s time to move on.
“It’s normal,” he said. ”There are a lot of good young goalies out there that are playing really well and playing a lot of games. I haven’t played many games in the last three years, so that makes a big difference, too.”
Various injuries, declining statistics and decreased playing time in recent years have all contributed to Brodeur’s name removing itself from the Olympic radar, but if you ask him, his days with Canada were over when he was benched in favor of Luongo after a 5-3 loss to the Americans during the 2010 tournament.
“For me, playing international hockey wasn’t something that I was looking forward to after I got pulled out of the net in the (2010 Vancouver) Olympics,” Brodeur said. “That was the bottom line.”
Accepting a decreased role with New Jersey since Cory Schneider’s arrival has been a big enough shock to Brodeur’s routine as it is, considering he’s averaged 68 starts per year since 1995. But taking on a third goalie spot on Team Canada without much likelihood of playing wasn’t an option that enthused Brodeur.
However, that’s not to say that he would have turned down Steve Yzerman had be been asked to go to Sochi.
“If they wanted me I would have went there, but I knew the direction that they wanted to take,” Brodeur said. “They know when it’s time for another goalie to take the role like Luongo did, so it’s his time to shine.”
Brodeur, 41, doesn’t have a fixed date in his mind for when he wants to retire, because in his own words, he’s having too much fun to stop playing. But the two-week-long Olympic break in February will be of huge help for his stamina as the Devils chase a wildcard playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Even on vacation, Brodeur still have an eye on his country mates as they go for gold.
“I don’t know what kind of coverage we’re going to get in Florida,” he said. “But I’ll be watching. It depends on the time as well. I’ll definitely see the results.”