Martin Brodeur Ask a Pro: My Whole thing was Butterfly
The resulting conversation covered everything from his unique style – would you believe he actually started as a butterfly goalie in junior before becoming one of the last of the stand-up stoppers in the NHL? – to the evolution of the position, to how his dad watching Ron Hextall play helped him become one of the game’s great goaltenders. Brodeur also talked about his ancient chest-and-arm, which ironically now has him out for up to a couple of weeks after a shot found one of many seams on the 12-year-old “protection.”
It should come as no surprise that the chance to engage one of, if not the, greatest goaltenders in the history of the NHL produced a flood of questions from our newsletter subscribers. And while there wasn’t nearly enough time to answer them all, the affable future first-ballot Hall of Fame goalie was gracious with his time, providing both the answers below and several other nuggets on the changes in both equipment and playing style that we will roll out later as features on InGoal.
(This Ask a Pro with Martin Brodeur was originally published October 31, 2010 exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Subscriptions to the weekly email are free – so why not sign up?)
InGoal Magazine reader Eddie Azcona (and several others) asks: You’ve been highly consistent throughout your career and really haven’t changed the way you play? What are your thoughts on today’s butterfly goalie and do you think that it’s the only way to play goal nowadays?
Martin Brodeur: “Actually when I was younger, when I was playing junior, my whole thing was the butterfly. I was going down a lot. I had the wide stance, both feet were really wide and my knees were locked in, I was a lot different than I am now, that’s for sure. [Devils Goalie Coach] Jacques Caron wanted me to be a more agile, mobile goalie, not just a blocking goalie. It’s funny the way you do the shuffle, I don’t really do the shuffle with my skate. We T-push everywhere instead of other goalies that drive everywhere, and you don’t see goalies T-push anymore. But that’s Jacques Caron, that’s the way he had to survive when he played the game because he wasn’t blessed with great mobility so he had to stand on his feet and he learned to T-push everywhere and get there on time and make the saves he needed to make. So really that’s something I never did before and when I came into training camp and did the first drill I looked like a Pee Wee. I couldn’t do anything because I wasn’t used to that and it’s funny now because I’ve been around a long time with him and every time we have a young goalie coming up Jacques is trying to teach him this stuff.”
The ancient chest protector
When Brodeur was forced to leave a recent game after taking a shot on the arm, InGoal was hardly surprised. Not after seeing his chest protector up close a few days earlier.
Brodeur, who came back early and even tried wearing Boston Celtics arm sleeves to protect his injured appendage but is now again out for up to two weeks, said the chest-and-arm is “12 years old at least.”
“It’s been around. It’s going to retire with me too,” he joked. “That’s why I add stuff. Every time I get hurt I put on new padding.”
Get out the sewing kit, then.
InGoal Magazine follow up: And your thoughts on your style now compared to others?
Martin Brodeur: “I take a lot of pride in being different than everybody and I think keep the shooter guessing. So I think it’s more hybrid type of style, a competitive goalie that will do more than be just a stand-up or just a butterfly goalie. I’m a guy that is a student of the game, loves to watch other players and how they’re successful, and if I’m able to pick out anything from their game and throw it into my game, I won’t hesitate to do that. And I think that’s the best way to describe it, a hybrid, somebody that will change with the situation in the way I’m going to play the game. It’s just about what you believe is better for you to play, your body type, how skilled you are, that lets you play a certain way. I think it’s all about playing the game and being aggressive and being active in your net. I think good athletes will be able to play. Look at [Calgary’s Miikka] Kiprusoff: There are a few goalies that still do the butterfly but still do a lot of the things that I do too. The way I like to play is totally different, try to keep the players guessing all the time and not knowing exactly what I’m going to do every time. It’s just a like a shooter, some guys have different trends and skate or shoot different ways – why should all the goalies be the same?”
InGoal: Isn’t that similarity what we see with so many of today’s butterfly goalies?
Martin Brodeur: “I think the trend of butterfly, stats don’t lie, it works. So you can’t bash that. It’s all about percentages. It was successful at one point and so that’s how goalie coaches taught the younger guys to play the game. They’ll tell you how many percent of the goals in the NHL are scored in certain areas of the net and if you’re able to block it at 100 per cent, you should be a good goalie. That’s the way the kids have been taught the last few years because of the success of the butterfly goalies that came about with [Jean-Sebastien] Giguere, and Patrick Roy, and [Roberto] Luongo, and a lot of other goalies also. It’s working for them, but I think it’s gotten to get tougher and tougher just to think about percentages because there is a lot more wide-open shots, a lot more survival out there than there was before the lockout. Your reflex game is more important, your agility, being able to recover from a save and controlling your rebounds are more important now because your defensemen can’t do the job they used to be able to do by interfering with players trying to get rebounds. Guys are able now to get the rebounds, so just blocking the shot is going to get tougher on goalies to just rely on that. You’re really going to have to control your game, put the puck where you want as far as rebounds are concerned.”
InGoal Magazine reader Nicholas Bado asks: I am always looking for ways to improve my game. What do you do off-ice that you feel is beneficial to your performance on the ice and has that routine changed?
Martin Brodeur: “You have to learn because you have to adjust your game. If you don’t want to adjust your game, you’re going to struggle because at the end of the day somebody is going to find a way to beat you and the only way to stay on top is to try and find a way that you won’t get beat. Sometimes you can do things a certain way your whole life, but maybe it’s not working anymore, and another thing is it’s not going to work all the time. You need to adjust yourself with what’s going on, and I think watching tapes of yourself is the best way. Every time I get scored on, I see it because I go back and watch every singe goal I give up and every single save I make. And so that’s how I learn my game. My coach and I don’t have to talk about it too much because we see it together. The next thing you know I see if I give up a rebound and I got up off the wrong foot and that’s why I was a little late getting over. Those are the things that are simple. Or it can be just about your positioning when the puck is behind the net, or why the guy was able to tap it in and it looked like I couldn’t move. There’s a reason why, maybe my feet were locked into position or I looked the wrong way behind the net, you name it, I really go through my game like probably no one else. Even though people think I just play the game, play the game, I really make sure that I do my homework every game. I think it’s important. My life will be 15-20 years in hockey and this is what I do, it’s my work, and if I don’t take pride in the way I play, who will?”
InGoal Magazine reader Jordan Whitley asks (and again, several other readers had similar inquiries): You are a pioneer of goalies playing the puck, so I wonder what got you started and is it something you can practice – and if so, how?
Martin Brodeur: “The way I wound up playing the puck was my dad used to be the photographer for the Montreal Canadiens and one morning when I woke up before going to school my dad came in and said ‘son, I can’t believe what I saw last night’ and I didn’t see the game so I didn’t know what he was talking about, but Ron Hextall was playing and he said ‘this guy is like a third defenseman.’ That stuck in my mind and the next thing you know I watched a game and saw him play and I was amazed and I thought, ‘you know what, that’s what I want to do, I want to put that in my game.’ And so I started working at it and the key to it is simply shooting pucks. Every time I have a chance, I’m going to make a pass to one of my players in practice. Every time I have a chance, I’m going to clear the puck just to see how far I’m going to be able to shoot it. And when they’re doing drills on the other side and I don’t feel like taking shots, I go and I take maybe 50 pucks and I’m going to aim at the cross bar, or aim just over the net, and you know I’ll shoot on my backhand, on my forehand, or from behind the net I’ll get someone to skate board to board at the red line and I’ll try to hit his stick. The key is you’ve got to play, you’ve got to practice, and you have to love what you do. I was 14 or 15 years old when I started to work at it, just remember when I was midget AAA we had hockey and school together so we had a class of hockey and I would just go into the gym and shoot those big heavy orange pucks for half an hour just to get stronger.”