- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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As Martin Brodeur braced for Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in New Jersey, the loquacious goaltending legend saw the bright side of a bad situation.
"We don’t have to think about hockey and the lockout for two days, we’re just thinking about surviving," Brodeur told ESPN.com on Monday morning.
Well, there is that.
The NHL’s all-time winningest goalie had set late October as a soft deadline to make up his mind on whether he'd tell agent Pat Brisson to inquire more seriously about a gig in Europe.
That’s been delayed now thanks to a shot in a scrimmage which broke his finger.
"Just a little break on the tip of my finger, so I can’t really do anything right now," said Brodeur, who says he’s been off the ice for about a week because of it. "If there was NHL, I’d probably play. But I’m not going to go skate with four guys with it.
"There’s nothing to it, though."
Once he heals, and depending on the status of NHL labor talks, Brodeur will reach out again to Brisson and figure out whether Europe makes sense.
"I told him by the middle of November," Brodeur said.
The 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer also gave Brisson specific parameters if and when Europe is a go. Brodeur wants to be sensitive about taking someone’s job; he only wants to go if a team in Europe has a real need for him.
"I told him I don’t want to steal anyone’s job, but if there’s an opportunity for me to play somewhere, I’d be more willing to go, especially now with negotiations coming to a halt," said Brodeur.
"I don’t want to force it, I told Pat if he has younger goalies in his agency that need jobs, I don’t want to take a job from a younger goalie. I want to make it that if somebody needs me, I’ll go. We’ll see what that brings."
My guess is, there might be an owner or two in Europe that sees dollar signs in the possible ticket sales of having Brodeur in net.
In the meantime, Brodeur continues to endure his fourth NHL work stoppage, having lived through the players’ strike in 1992 and three NHL lockouts (1994, 2004-05 and now).
What bothers him about this lockout and is that he felt a deal shouldn’t have been so hard to reach given that the NHL already had a cap system in place. He thought a new CBA could have been had with a few tweaks instead of what’s transpired.
"But the league really had almost the same attitude as the last time around," Brodeur said. "And with the last few weeks and the way they’ve conducted themselves, I don’t know what’s in the back of their heads, but they seem to be on a path that we saw seven years ago and it’s not something that’s fun to see. ...
"For me, it’s just disappointing," he later added. "Because of the structure we had already in place, I didn’t think we needed to be still talking about it by [U.S.] Thanksgiving. But that’s what it looks like now."
Looking at the bigger picture, Brodeur ponders the damage being done.
"You know what I’m worried about? I don’t live in a hockey-driven town, New Jersey isn’t like Toronto or Montreal or Detroit," he said. "And people now that I see don’t even think about talking to me about hockey. The first few weeks, yes, but now no one does. I don’t know if it’s because there’s not enough coverage in the U.S. about what’s going on, but I think it’s going to affect people tremendously, fans are going to move on and find a different source of entertainment. It’s going to take a long time for them to readjust and get back to hockey. Eventually I think people will because our sport is pretty special."
What’s too bad, Brodeur said, is that in his area the NHL made huge strides last season, pointing to the Devils’ Cup finals run, the Rangers getting to the Eastern Conference finals and the Flyers' upset of the Penguins.
"We brought a lot of attention to our sport and to our league in this area," Brodeur said. "But slowly you just see how people start asking me less about hockey around here. You have to worry about that a little bit. I know in Canada that’s not the case, but in smaller markets, you have to be concerned. I’m not talking about the hard-core hockey fans, but the general sports fans, those on the bubble who come to some hockey games. Those are the fans that help us fill things out on a Tuesday night. That’s who we might lose."
7dScott Burnside and Craig Custance