He’s been there and done that.  He didn’t “buy” the t-shirt, or the hat – but he was surely given one a few times.

How many?  Three to be exact. 

In 1995, 2000 and again in 2003 the New Jersey Devils won Stanley Cups and the backbone of those victories was none other than Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur was not the ONLY reason the Devils reigned the hockey world in those years but he was a very big part of them.  Yes, New Jersey as a team played punishing, physical and stifling team defence in those years, but the last line of defence is ALWAYS the goalie.

In 1995, Brodeur was 16-4 with 3 shutouts and a 1.67 GAA.

In the 2000 run to the title he went 16-7 with a couple of shutouts and a 1.61 GAA.

If that wasn’t enough, 3 years later when the Devils danced to a final again, he was 16-8 with 7 of his wins by shutout and another sparkling goals against of 1.65.

Coming into these playoffs, he had 99 career playoff wins and 24 shutouts.

Now, the Devils are through to another Eastern Conference Final.  After being pushed to the limit by the upstart Florida Panthers – Marty and the Devils dispatched of the Flyers in 5 games.  Yes those same Flyers that easily dismantled the powerful Penguins and looked to be finally headed to a Cup Final after having acquired a goalie.

Let’s be clear.  The ONLY team in the Devils/Flyers series that had a goalie – was the one from New Jersey. 

Now all that stands in the way of Marty’s Devils and another shot at Lord Stanley’s mug are the Rangers or Capitals.  Both have a goalie – but neither of them have Martin Brodeur.

Seriously, with all of the crap that has happened so far in the 2011-12 edition of the NHL Playoffs would Martin Brodeur hoisting a 4th Stanley Cup and skating off into retirement not be one of the great career ending stories in sports history?

Who could forget Ray Bourque hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time?  After so many years of being the consummate professional with the Boston Bruins – he finally won a Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. 

Tony La Russa’s World Series title with the Cards marked the end of his fantastic managerial career.  La Russa is well-known as one of the best baseball minds in the history of the game and when he won another World Series title as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals – he hung up the cleats one final time.

What about running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis who is a Detroit native and shortly after winning a Super Bowl in Motown with Steelers was quoted as saying “…I played this game to win a championship.  I’m a champion and I think the Bus’ last stop is here in Detroit.”

To a lesser extent (only because it wasn’t following a championship) Ted Williams went out as only Ted Williams should have.  He of the 521 career long balls went deep in his final career at bat.

Of course, the name most sports fans think of immediately when talking about athletes who go out on top is that of the great John Elway.  At 38, after YEARS of being labelled one of the best to ever play “without” winning a championship…Elway led the Broncos to back to back Super Bowl titles and closed his career as Super Bowl MVP in his final game. 

THAT is how you go out.

Here’s hoping it’s exactly the same this year for the best goalie to ever tend the twine tent.

Have a day, and have fun watching the best ever.

Paul