There can only be only one hockey Great One. Or can there be two?
The way Chico Resch sees it, the game can boast another between the pipes. Resch makes no bones about where Martin Brodeur belongs in the annals of hockey history.
"He would be a national treasure like Wayne Gretzky if he played all these years for a Canadian team," said the former NHL netminder, now an analyst for New Jersey Devils telecasts..
"He's the goalie version of Wayne Gretzky. Why was Gretzky great? He didn't skate fast. He wasn't big. His slapshot wasn't overpowering, but it just made sense the way he did it.
"Marty is the same."
Soon, very soon, Brodeur will take his place atop the list in the two biggest statistical categories for goalkeepers.
With New Jersey's 3-1 victory over Montreal last night, he tied the great Patrick Roy for first overall on the career wins list with 551. He needs four shutouts to surpass the 103 posted by the legendary Terry Sawchuk. It's not a matter of if Brodeur will earn those titles. It's a matter of when.
"It's overwhelming," Brodeur said. "I didn't expect to play in the NHL to break any records or to win any Stanley Cups. I just wanted to play in the NHL. I wanted to live the life of a hockey player, growing up in Montreal.
"You start winning and suddenly you wake up and see you're doing some pretty cool things."
That Brodeur is a great goalie is not open to debate. The question that must be asked is what makes him so great.
Countless youngsters have strapped on the pads. Multitudes have reached the pro ranks. What makes him so unique to achieve so much?
Oh sure, he's been on a top team in New Jersey seemingly ever since his NHL career began in 1992-93, helping the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles.
However, you rarely win a title, let alone three, without great goaltending. Therefore, he does possess something special, over and above the norm. The consensus is incredible physical and mental abilities. Probably no goalie in history is as unflappable. At a time puck-stoppers around the NHL refuse to be interviewed the morning of a game -- seven or eight hours later -- he's relaxed enough to carry a conversation with a fresh face as if it was over a pot of coffee. It may not work for everybody, but sure works for him.
"I'm very serious about practising and playing and very regimented and structured, but he's so happy-go-lucky," said Devils backup netminder Kevin Weekes.
"Because of him, I've learned to relax and enjoy it. "He's played 15 years in this league and has fun every day."
When it's time to zero in on the game, Brodeur can do that, too, maybe like no other around him.
"He's like a really good chess player. He sees four, five moves ahead," teammate Brendan Shanahan said. "Marty reads a two-on-one or a scramble in front of the net almost like a forward. He knows where the next pass should go, and is probably going, and makes that assessment before the players on the ice.
"He also assesses whether the guy with the puck is a shooter or passer or the guy standing back door is a shooter. As the player's making the decision whether he should pass to the Teemu Selanne standing back door, Marty's already made that decision and is halfway there."
Then there's his style. Butterfly goaltending is all the rage -- has been pretty much since Roy took the league by storm.
But Brodeur has maintained his own game. You're more likely to see him on his feet or using a half-butterfly -- always dropping only the right knee -- to make a save.
It may seem unorthodox, but not without thought. He studies, refines, adapts and innovates as well as anybody. It's just that, like great ones, be they Gretzky or Sinatra, he does it his way.
"He grew up in a free-flowing world," Resch said. "He could just have fun, playing ball hockey. On the ice, he could just play naturally. You hear people say, 'Just go out and play,' but that only works if you're allowed to. He grew up playing a free-flowing game.
"And it allowed him to develop in a good way."
When it gets you to the next level time and time again, it makes sense not to change.
"It's really a simple game I try to play," Brodeur said. "I can play the same shot two different ways. I want to be able to do it standing up or going down. I could do a butterfly if I wanted to, I just don't feel comfortable as a guy who does it on every single shot.
"I have abilities to play a certain way that other guys maybe don't have, or they don't believe in. That's everybody's prerogative on how to play goal.
"For me, it was to play the game. It wasn't to have a set pattern in what I did."
How often do you see goalies use an old-school skate save? Stack their pads? Remain on his feet when the shooter is bearing down? Watch Brodeur and you will.
Plays to win
"You have fundamentals to follow, but after that it's a game. I have fun," he said.
To the tune of 100 shutouts and 551 wins.
Naturally, you have to wonder which record will mean more.
"It's all about winning," he said. "Shutouts happen because your team does certain things in front of you. If the team's up 5-0, they don't try to make it six.
"Wins. Everybody plays to win."
GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUE
Veteran New Jersey Devils goaltender and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur is on the brink of adding two significant records to his NHL resume. Brodeur is set to become the NHL career wins leader and break Terry Sawchuk's career shutout record, which has stood for close to 40 years.
MARTIN BRODEUR PROFILE
Born: May 6, 1972, Montreal
NHL record: More than 900 matches as New Jersey Devils goaltender since 1991. Stanley Cup winner; 2003, 2000, 1995. Vezina Trophy for top
goaltender; 2008, 2007, 2004, 2003
World Cup: Winner 2004
Olympic Games: Turin 2006, seventh. Salt Lake City 2002, gold. Nagano 1998, fourth.
Brodeur has scored twice in the NHL, including a playoff goal in 1997
AND THE WINNER IS ...
Among Martin Brodeur's many NHL awards is the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against, which he poses with in this 1998 photo.
Brodeur stands with the Vezina Trophy for the top goaltender after winning it at the 2007 NHL awards. He also was awarded the Vezina three other times including 2003, 2004 and 2008.
Brodeur celebrates with teammate Scott Gomez after winning the Stanley Cup in 2000. He also was a member of the Devils' 1995 and 2003 championship teams.