- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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Martin Brodeur has achieved the lockout hat trick, and even that doesn’t fully detail his experience with NHL labor wars.
"I was part of a strike, too, so I’ve actually been part of four work stoppages now," Brodeur reminded ESPN.com Thursday. "I was called up two days before [the strike in 1992] happened."
Hard to believe Brodeur, who has played his entire career with the New Jersey Devils, still managed to squeeze out the all-time leading win total by a goalie (656) despite all of those CBA interruptions.
"I counted it up the other day, it’s going to be well over 100 games that I lost in the NHL because of work stoppages," Brodeur said.
And counting, I interjected.
"Yes, and counting, exactly," he said, before setting up a punch line with his trademark laugh: "But I wasn’t going to play in the first preseason games anyway."
Yes, now that the league has canceled the first couple of weeks of the preseason, we await other games to be canceled. If there's still no agreement when the real games in October are scheduled to start, the 40-year-old Brodeur says he’ll ponder his playing options.
Eight years ago, when the NHL season was canceled, Brodeur didn’t jump to Europe to play in a league. He was satisfied after having played in the September 2004 World Cup of Hockey, an exhibition tour of Europe in December, and May 2005 IIHF world hockey championship, where he earned a silver medal with Team Canada.
This time around, playing in a European league might be on the docket and he’s already advised agent Pat Brisson to be on the lookout.
"I’m going to wait it out until October, when they’re going to start slashing games, and try to have a sense of where it’s going," Brodeur said. "I know I’m closing doors in Europe now because I’m going to wait a little bit, but I’d like to go somewhere to play by November if I can get an opportunity somewhere. Right now, I have no intention of going because while there’s still lines of communication [between the NHL and NHLPA], it’s still a positive thing. But if come the middle of October nothing is going on, I’ve already talked to Pat about seeing what’s out there."
In the meantime, the third lockout of his career is no less aggravating.
"It’s really an unfortunate thing to hold the players and the fans to this kind of treatment all the time," he said. "Regardless of whether it’s something they need to do -- I think everyone understands everybody’s situation -- but when you always try to bully somebody, it’s kind of tough. It’s been three times now. ... It’s tough when they use the same things to always get what they want, but again, they’re in their rights to do it. It’s not like they’re doing anything different, they’re going about their business that they feel they can get a better deal for themselves."
Brodeur, like most people, saw this lockout coming. That explains why he fought so hard for a two-year deal from the Devils, enough that he even hit the open market for a few days before general manager Lou Lamoriello relented.
"At the end of the day, that was foremost the first reason why Lou and I didn’t agree on a one-year deal, because I kept telling him that I needed a guarantee I would play hockey," Brodeur said. "At my age, if I go through a whole lockout without a contract, it would have been tough for me to sign for the value I thought I was worth. So I debated with Lou a long time. It took more time than I thought it would. But they came around with it. For me, both mentally and physically, it was the most important thing to get that extra year. Because my experience is that when people talk lockout, usually it happens. That’s the feeling that I had. The second year was a safety valve for me."
A one-year deal would have risked seeing his career conclude with the end of a year-long lockout. He didn’t want to chance that.
"Eventually I’ll leave the game, but I want to leave it the way I want to leave it, and not because of a work stoppage," Brodeur said. "There’s so many great players that had that happen to them last time and I’m sure it killed them. Hopefully, that’s under my control now with how I structured things, but I guess you never know."
Until then, Brodeur hopes saner minds prevail. He believes the NHLPA has made good offers and the NHL hasn’t recognized those efforts. But for the better of the game, he hopes there’s labor peace.
"A lot of positive stuff came out of the last few seasons in the NHL, and now we’re going back to the negative stuff," he said. "It’s just not healthy."