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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Public Enemy #1

    For the last 14 years, a single man has tormented my beloved New York Rangers more than any other. In his first season -1994 – in the National Hockey League, Martin Brodeur led his upstart Devils into the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers. In an epic series, Brodeur and the Devils were defeated. It took the full seven games, and the heroics of Ranger captain Mark Messier’s game six guarantee and hat trick, to bring down the new foe.

    From that time forward, Brodeur has been widely regarded as the “best” goaltender in the entire league. His New Jersey Devils went on to win the Stanley Cups – in 1995, 2000, and 2003. His statistics do elevated him into the upper echelon of NHL goaltenders, but his personality and style of play leave much to be desired.

    Aside from his domination of the rest of the league, Brodeur had a special place in his heart for beating up on the Rangers. Between 1998 and 2005, the Rangers loaded up their teams with big name, offensively gifted players. But these players never meshed together, and they didn’t make the playoffs a single time during that period, despite having the highest payroll in the league.

    The Devils plodded along and almost single-handedly brought NHL to its death. Their style of play consisted of a defensive trap, which saw the team focus on defense only. They took advantage of the leagues lack of calling hooking and holding penalties, and slowed down and frustrated opposing team’s stars to no end. They did this with no offense. This incredibly boring style was effective, but put fans to sleep and turned the free flowing, highly skilled game of hockey into a “clutch and grab” fest. Watch a game in this years playoffs, and then go back and watch a game from the mid-90s. Players couldn’t skate through the neutral zone without being held up. The stars couldn’t use their skills to create plays and excite the fans. The league nearly died a slow and painful death because the New Jersey Devils realized they could win consistently relying only on their above average goaltender. Dump the puck in, the defense shovels it out. Pass it to center ice, dump it into the other end. Repeat. That was the NHL in the mid-90s, thanks to the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur.

    On February 5, 2007, the Rangers finally acquired the man who could help them solve Martin Brodeur. Sean Avery, the resident NHL “pest” and the proud winner of the Hockey News’ poll for most hated player in the NHL, as voted on by his peers, became a Ranger.

    In Avery’s third week as a Ranger, he finally met his good friend Marty Brodeur on the ice. In the third period Avery drove hard to the net and put a shot on Brodeur. Like usually, Marty took a pretty hard dive from an innocent looking collision. He then got up and punched Avery in the face with his blocker. Avery responded with a slight push to Brodeur’s chest. Marty then dove back, leaving his feet, mimicking a victim who was blasted at close range with a shotgun. All hell broke loose, and of course Avery was sent to the penalty box, and Marty got off scot free. Such is the life of being the NHL’s poster boy goaltender.

    After the game, when asked about the physical battle in front of the goal, Avery responded with a sharp remark. “Marty’s a whiner,” he said. “He’s always been a whiner. You just gotta play through it.” In each of Avery’s three games against the Devils that season the Rangers where whistled for a goaltender interference penalty, a call not often made in today’s NHL. Part of that is based on the fact that Brodeur loves to lay five feet above his crease, the other that he is auditioning for an Oscar with the acting job he performs every time a Ranger player even breathes on him.

    In game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals involving the Rangers and Devils this year Brodeur once again showed his true colors. With two Devils in the penalty box, the Rangers had a glorious chance to take a lead. Avery proceeded to park himself in front of the net in an attempt to distract Brodeur. This is a pretty common play in hockey. What made it noteworthy was the fact that Avery stood facing the goaltender, waving his stick and hands in front of Brodeur’s face, and yapping at him the whole time. As soon as Avery stopped with this action, he put his stick on the ice and fired a shot that beat Brodeur right between his legs, pouring salt into the embarrassed Brodeur’s already gaping wound.

    The play was lauded by hockey pundits all across North America the next day. The NHL even jumped into the mix and immediately made such a play a two-minute-minor penalty. Another example of Brodeur whining to the higher ups and getting his way.

    Two nights later, Ranger captain Jaromir Jagr made a brilliant play in front of the goal on another Ranger power play. He weaved and juked between two Devils defenders, finding himself in alone of Marty. Because of his angle, Jagr came across the crease and his knee made contact with Brodeur’s head. The initial force of the shot pushed Brodeur back slightly. About two seconds later Brodeur took it upon himself to embellish the play. He threw his head back, and followed with his entire body. He was parallel with the ice. His glove grabbed at his helmet the entire time, hoping to convince the refs he was hurt and the play should be blown dead. The Rangers cycled the puck behind the net, looking for another scoring opportunity. But the ref’s saw a prone Brodeur lying in his crease. They blew the whistle, and the play stopped. Just Marty getting more preferential treatment.

    The guy is good, there is no denying that. But he’s a jerk. He cheated on his wife with his sister in-law. As Marty sits in his house watching the NHL playoffs on TV it should now be known that just stingy defense and crying for favorable calls is not the way to win in the NHL. Sean Avery will continue to invent new ways to get under his opponents skin, scored a few goals along the way and show how hockey should be played. All will be right with the world.

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