Two other decisions by Lemaire resonated more deeply. On Nov. 30, in New Jersey's only visit to Colorado, Lemaire used Dunham in a 2-1 loss to Roy and the defending Stanley Cup champions. For Brodeur, who played a record 4,433 minutes in 1995-96, missing a rare matchup against Roy was like a kid being taken to the beach and being told that he couldn't go in the water. Lemaire also chose not to start Brodeur on Feb. 1 in Montreal, a decision Brodeur didn't learn of until a few hours before the game. He wasn't amused Presumably neither were the more than 20 friends and relatives for whom he had bought tickets.
The metropolitan New York media surmised that Lemaire was trying to mess with Brodeur's mind. Lemaire can be enigmatic, but he definitely is not certifiable. He didn't plan to toy with his best player jus for kicks. While sorting through the prosaic reasons for turning to Dunham on those two occasions—Brodeur had played indifferently on the road trip before the Avalanche game; he had told Caron he hadn't slept much the night before the Montreal match—Lemaire says he sensed something deeper. "Martin had been talking to Patrick and was excited about playing against Patrick," Lemaire says. "Well the game is not Patrick versus Martin. It's the Avalanche versus the Devils, and it should stay that way."
By denying Brodeur a mask-to-mask showdown with Roy and later a showcase game in his hometown, Lemaire was offering subtle reminders that big-time pros must put aside childhood dreams. "Yeah, not playing against Patrick and how I found out I wasn't playing against the Canadiens upset me at the time," Brodeur says. But no one scribbled a mustache on Lemaire's picture in Brodeur's boyhood bedroom (Brodeur and Lemaire posed on the day of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft in 1989, when Lemaire, then the head of the Verdun Junior Canadiens, picked Brodeur in the third round), and a few days after the Montreal game, goalie and coach met on the ice during practice to clear the air. Brodeur insists the relationship has never been better.
"Hockey isn't only a job for Martin," Lemaire says. "It's his toy." The inner child still can be found outdoors sometimes, playing forward in street hockey games in St. Liboire during the off-season. While fatherhood has kept him off the streets more than usual this summer—he and wife, Mélanie, have a two-year-old, Anthony, and 11-month-old twins, William and Jeremy—he grabbed some guys from his old neighborhood for a game against players from his new town, St. Hyacinthe. If Willie Mays could go three sewers in stickball, why couldn't Brodeur boom slap shots off the pavement? Even now hardly a day goes by without a neighbor's child ringing the doorbell to ask, "Can Martin come out and play?"
Yes, he can play. Four full seasons in the NHL are proof. He plays angles, moves economically, handles his stick superbly and absorbs shots as much as he stops them, so he rarely leaves bad rebounds. But Brodeur probably is better known for two saves he didn't make. Stéphane Matteau of the Rangers stuffed a wraparound past him in the second overtime of Game 7 in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals to end the most compelling playoff series of this decade. Last spring another Ranger, Adam Graves, knocked out the powerless Devils in the second round of the playoffs with an overtime wraparound after Brodeur missed a poke check. "Marty was angry after the Graves goal, but he didn't come into the room and start breaking sticks or anything," Chambers says. "He was disappointed because we weren't going to keep playing."
In February, Brodeur will become an Olympian, as his father was, unless he is injured or Team Canada general manager Bob Clarke and his fellow selectors have a massive brain cramp. In September 1996, Brodeur was content to back up the Edmonton Oilers' Curtis Joseph in the World Cup and would gladly go to the Nagano Games even if he were No. 2—especially if Roy were the starter. Brodeur and Roy briefly were teammates on the players'-association-sponsored Team Quebec during the 1994 NHL lockout. "There was a breakaway contest, and we were down two goals," Brodeur recalls. "Patrick says, 'You guys go ahead and score. I'll stop everything else.' Gee, I wouldn't say anything like that. Not even in practice."
Brodeur wouldn't say it because he has no guile, which is the part of Denis's handiwork that you can't frame. Martin was brought up to understand that just because you do something special doesn't necessarily mean you are special. This makes for the most flattering portrait of all.
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