Top five unsung backup goalies to Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur and Scott Clemmensen (Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images)
Top five unsung backup goalies to Martin Brodeur
Behind every great goalie is a supportive backup goalie, and Martin Brodeur has had more than a few. These five goalies wore a baseball cap on the bench while Brodeur wrote the greatest chapters in his legendary career.
It’s not easy being a legend, and it’s not easy playing second fiddle to a legend, either. Martin Brodeur was a workhorse starter for the vast majority of his career, and many goalies have watched from the bench while he wrote a nigh-unbeatable legacy.
But backing up Martin Brodeur wasn’t like backing up any other netminder in the league. It meant fewer starts, limited career prospects and more time wearing a baseball cap than a goalie mask. It also meant accepting the bridesmaid role behind a guy who loved to be the go-to netminder on his team.
Brodeur became the New Jersey Devils’ top dog in the 1993-94 season. Since then, 16 different goalies have been his backup before he lost the job to Cory Schneider and left for St. Louis.
These five goalies are the ultimate "other" guys who played second fiddle to the greatest netminder of all time - the guys who, in their small ways, gave Brodeur the support he needed to achieve greatness.
1. Chris Terreri
Chris Terreri was Brodeur’s first backup and the man who eased his early transition into the NHL. Brodeur pushed aside Craig Billington when he joined New Jersey full time in 1993-94, but Terreri stuck around to appear in 44 games to Brodeur’s 47 that season.
The veteran netminder stepped into a full backup role for the Devils’ 94-95 Stanley Cup-winning season, appearing in only 15 games that campaign. He only played four games in 1995-96 before being shipped out of town to San Jose in a season that saw Brodeur appear in 77 games.
Terreri returned to New Jersey in 1998 to serve as Brodeur’s backup for parts of three more seasons, including a second Stanley Cup championship in 2000. After his retirement, Terreri returned to the Devils as a goaltending coach.
He appeared in a total of 97 games for the Devils while Brodeur was the starter, tallying 5,112 minutes between the pipes while posting a .898 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average to go along with 38 wins.
2. Johan Hedberg
If Chris Terreri was the steady veteran presence at the beginning of Brodeur’s career, then Johan Hedberg was the equally steady veteran presence near the end of it.
Hedberg was the last undeniably No. 2 goalie to partner with Brodeur, before Cory Schneider arrived as the heir-apparent in 2013. Brodeur leaned on Hedberg more than any other backup in his career as injuries and age began to erode his game from 2010 to 2013. Hedberg appeared in 80 games to Brodeur’s 144 during their tenure together, and while Hedberg shouldered a considerably heavier load than his predecessors, he still understood his role as second in the pecking order.
Hedberg played 4,416 minutes in relief, posting a .908 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average with 38 wins.
Not bad for a guy who’s just 366 days younger than Brodeur.
3. Scott Clemmensen
Scott Clemmensen is hardly the best goaltender on this list, but if hockey had an Oscars, he’d get the award for Best Supporting Actor.
Clemmensen did everything you could ask of a backup. He rode the bench and waited patiently to get a shot at the net, but he also never surrendered his hopes of one day getting a bigger role. He spent just as many years riding the bus for the Albany River Rats, and when Brodeur suffered his first major injury in 2008-09, Clemmensen was there to bail the Devils out.
The Des Moines, Iowa native seized the reins in New Jersey for 40 games that season, posting an impressive 25 wins, 2.39 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in relief for Brodeur.
There was no way Clemmensen would ever unseat Brodeur, but his 2008-09 performance was enough to spur him to try free agency. Clemmensen went on to be a strong backup goalie for the Florida Panthers for several seasons before returning to New Jersey this season.
But it wasn’t all about playing time with Clemmensen. He also backed up Brodeur through two of his four Vezina Trophy-winning seasons and patiently played the backup for Brodeur’s career-high 78-game season in 2006-07.
Clemmensen played 3,546 minutes behind Brodeur and posted a .910 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average with 64 wins.
4. Kevin Weekes
Kevin Weekes was a well-traveled and well-respected backup goalie by the time he arrived in New Jersey in 2007. He’d already played for six different organizations and spent three of his first 11 campaigns as a starter, so he had great pedigree coming in.
That said, he was coming in to back up the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and there would be no question about who was the top dog.
Weekes appeared in nine games for the Devils in his first year and witnessed Brodeur’s 77-game run to another Vezina Trophy.
Then, in an odd twist, Weekes found himself backing up Scott Clemmensen for half of the 2008-09 season when Brodeur went down with an elbow injury. Weekes got into 16 games that year and won seven of them, posting a .920 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average – some of the best numbers of his career.
Weekes put in a total of 1,138 minutes between the pipes in Brodeur’s place, with a .918 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against average.
5. Corey Schwab
Corey Schwab spent more time in the minors than he did watching NHL hockey from the backup’s spot on the bench, but he was present for some of the most important moments in Martin Brodeur’s career.
Schwab’s first go-around in New Jersey was a forgettable one – a winless 10 appearances (three starts) in 1995-96 after Chris Terreri was shipped out of town.
Schwab would leave New Jersey after that and spend five seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs before landing back in New Jersey.
And that’s when the magic happened.
Brodeur won back-to-back Vezina Trophies in 2002-03 and 2003-04 with Schwab as a backup, and Schwab also got his name on the Stanley Cup as part of the Devils’ win in 2003.
He retired shortly after that.
More than any other guy on this list, Corey Schwab was in the right place at the right time to witness some of Brodeur’s greatest moments.
But Schwab was no slouch with a .929 save percentage and 1.54 goals-against average through 34 regular season appearances in relief of Brodeur.