In hockey parlance, the "crease" is the small rectangular area in front of the goal, defended by the goalie like a junkyard dog. Facing slap shots over 100 MPH, bracing for oncoming collisions with opponents (and teammates), it takes a brave (or foolhardy) soul to don the sports equivalent of baseball's "tools of ignorance."
Martin Brodeur, netminder for the New Jersey Devils since 1992, is one of the greatest goalies in the history of the game. He led his team to the Stanley Cup three times and is the only goalie in the NHL with 10 seasons of 30 or more wins. A nine-time All-Star, he has won the Jennings Award, given to the goalies of the team allowing the fewest goals during the regular season, five times and is a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie in the league. In short, he's a sure lock for the NHL Hall of Fame when the time comes.
BRODEUR: BEYOND THE CREASE, written with Damien Cox, an award-winning sportswriter for the Toronto Star, is about what we've come to expect in sports biographies these days: a recap of a career, hopefully of one of the better athletes rather than the "flavor of the month," when sudden success makes one a household name for a brief period.
The Quebec-born Brodeur --- whose father, Denis, was also a professional goalie --- writes primarily about his professional experiences. But he seems to share equal pride in representing Canada in the Olympics in 1998, 2002 and 2006, although that pride is tempered by disappointing results in Turin, where the team failed to win a medal. With all that time on his hands during the 2005-06 lockout that canceled the entire season, Brodeur does a good job of capturing the frustration of an aging athlete (i.e., in his mid-30s) with less time ahead of him than behind, uncomprehending of the inability of labor and management to reach an agreement. The players had to make a lot of concessions that hit them in the wallet. He also makes clear his displeasure with decisions made by the league to promote individual stars at the expense of the teams.
But there's more to the man than the headlines on the ice. The tabloids went wild when Brodeur's marriage fell apart and he began a relationship with his sister-in-law. The timing of the situation --- he received the divorce papers during the 2003 playoffs --- just added to the melodrama. Overall, however, his home life seems sedate, especially in the age of "bling" and celebrity conspicuous consumption.
By the end of BRODEUR: BEYOND THE CREASE, the reader (who most likely will be a staunch hockey fan) will probably come away with his impressions confirmed: Brodeur must have felt the time was right to tell his story. But, like many of his fellow athlete/authors, the reader might wonder what he really had to say.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on October 10, 2006