Ms. Conduct

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The secret to Marty's success: His ancient chest protector smells so bad, it literally repels pucks.

I have a friend who is a huge Devils fan, at least in theory. She’s been so busy since college (10 years ago), she has no idea who’s on the team anymore, how they’re doing, or anything else.

“Are they in the playoffs this year?” she asks me.

The glaring exception is, of course, Marty Brodeur, who has been a New Jersey Devil since the Big Bang. So, as far as my friend knows, the Devils are still the Devils because Marty’s in the net.

Recently, the almost-40-year-old told media in Toronto that he’s having fun right now. He’s feeling good and is leaning toward sticking around at least another season.

As good as that news will be to my friend, if she ever even hears it, I had a moment of cognitive dissonance about it. Simultaneous, conflicting feelings of, “Uhhh, I dunno about that…” and “Good for you! Play as long as you want!” and “Oh please please please don’t Favre this thing!”

When I first started watching hockey obsessively, learning the game and studying goalies, I watched the Devils quite a bit.

Well, I watched Brodeur. This was before I understood goaltending technique, before I knew what solid, technically sound goaltending looked like, before my eye was trained by the other 99% of pro goalies who play variations on a butterfly style.

This post is basically just an excuse to run this photo.

And back then, he was a ninja. It looked as though he could play with both eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. I couldn’t even always figure out what part of his gear or body had stopped a shot, but he almost always got something in front of the puck.

It was like he had Jedi powers: “This isn’t the net you’re looking for…”

Then there was that whole childishness with Sean Avery – the waving hands in in Brodeur’s face during play and then “Handshake Gate” (though that did spawn my favorite Averyism of all time “Fatso there just forgot to shake my hand, I guess”) – all of which seems like a million years ago.

The 2008-09 season cemented his Living Legend status for me. I knew if I ever met him, I would probably cry. Or faint. Or, at the very least, make awkward, inappropriate advances at him.

I remember his 552nd win to break Patrick Roy’s win record so vividly. Say what you want about the Devils and their suffocating defensive style, but you won’t convince me that it’s not incredibly special to be the winningest goalie of all time, and further, to have spent your entire career in the same organization.

For them to want you this long, and for you to want them, is extraordinary. Hell, to have signed a 6 year contract and actually have fulfilled it without either side so much as giving the other stink-eye along the way is mind boggling.

So far, that’s 18 seasons with the same NHL club, and 12 of those he played 70 or more games, most in the 75+ range. Only 6 have been fewer than 70.

And one of those 6 was last season. I watched him occasionally and was shocked by how “over it” he looked. Though really, that’s a completely reasonable state of mind. What’s left to prove? What’s left to accomplish? He just looked tired, and his back-up, Johan Hedberg was outplaying him on a regular basis.

This season, he’s finding more success, resting more, and his GAA and save percentage are identical to Hedberg’s. But I watch him and it saddens me to admit that I don’t enjoy it any more.

I suspect it is me and my expectations of what “great goaltending” looks like that have changed, but I watch him now and it makes me tense and nervous.

Hurricane Marty

It’s a muted version of what I feel watching video of goalies in the 70s, kicking, flopping, half-butterflying. Oh lord! Make it stop!

And I go back to my original conflicted feelings:  How much longer can this guy last? Not just physically, but mentally. How, when you’ve accomplished everything, do you continue to find the fire in the belly required to play at this level successfully? Especially in goal where the pressure is so high and inconsistency is so obvious and damaging.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that he does continue to find it, but I hope he doesn’t stay too long. As much as he’s earned the right to play until he says he’s done, I hope the same grace and wisdom and good humor he’s exhibited during his career comes to bear as he decides when to call it a day.

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, but there’s no doubt she’s warming up, and George Costanza Rules apply (as they always should): Leave on a high note.

But is it even possible for a player to leave with fans wanting more while not wanting more himself? Here’s to Brodeur pulling off one last feat of magic and doing just that.

Everybody hurts sometimes.

If you’ve been a fan of one team long enough, you’ve been where I and countless unlucky others are right now.

LoserTown. That place where self-pity-laced-with-hope finally gives way to the practical knowledge that your team sucks and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, at least not this season.

Your GM is spending his days with a Sharpie putting prices on those dot stickers, garage door up, SALE sign on the corner with an arrow directing passersby to your house on GolfingInApril Lane.

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Didn't know what photo to use for a fantasy hockey post, so I just picked one. I hope that's okay. Hey, Marty...

Some subjects drop in your lap and you sit there with a blank Word screen going, “Where to start? Where… to… start?”

Not because I don’t have a lot to say, but because there’s just so much.

That subject this week originates over in Baseball Land, where CBS Sports is offering a fantasy baseball game called Baseball Boyfriend. The company that created the app even bought the URL for this endeavor. I really would have thought Alyssa Milano would have owned that URL already.

(BTW, I promise I’ll get to the hockey here in a minute, despite the fact that I’m sitting here wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hoodie. Don’t hate. Girl’s got to have a summer hobby.)

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Except for being massively attractive, rich, and elegant, we beer league goalie know how you feel there, Henrik.

I’m getting my goalie mask painted soon, and for a beer league goalie, that’s a pretty big deal.

Unlike pro players, you generally only get one or two shots at making your paint special because it may be the only paint job you ever get. Not because it’s crazy expensive, but it isn’t cheap either, and it’s absolutely the least necessary thing you could ever pay for in terms of goalie gear.

But because of the anonymity of the position (guys I’ve played with for 2 years, and who get an email every game day saying who’s in net, still call me “goalie”), your gear is your identification, your mask paint especially.

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I don’t like the Canadiens. More specifically, I don’t like their fans. (Not YOU of course. You’re awesome.) So, that’s where we’re starting from.

I do like goalies, however, and Carey Price is one of those, so he slips through the insidious cracks of “typical Montreal” obnoxiousness.

Still, his affiliation with a team I dislike has kept him at arm’s length, meaning I’ve watched his career somewhat clinically, more as a student of the position.

And few players provide such an interesting study in the mental challenges of pro hockey – in balancing swagger and ego with professionalism.

So, as we sit here on the cusp of Price’s third NHL All-Star Game, I thought it would be fun to look back at his roller coaster of a career that’s gone from Jesus Price to trade bait back to All-Star again.

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Owning a hockey team is SUPER FUN, right, Chuck?... Right?... Chuck?...

About once a week, I think, “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to have a job in hockey so I could get paid to obsess over hockey?”

But then I remember the egos in sports management, the low pay because profit margins are thin, and the long hours for that low pay, etc. etc.

At which point I realize the gig I really want is just being rich and OWNING a team. Brilliant!

Now, I haven’t figured out the being rich part because, well, I’m a writer . So, my only option is to start playing the lottery, which I’m going to start doing right away, because – you guys – the Wheeling Nailers are for sale!

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The most unflattering picture of Marty Havlat I could find.

Fandom is a tricky subject. Everybody has their own way of being a fan, their definition of “real fan,” their guiding principles, and their easily-pushed buttons (good and bad).

Your relationship to sports is as unique as your fingerprint. Sure, I find plenty of gals who also have an extra special thing for goalies, but I can’t find one who agrees on WHICH goalies. For instance, how many of you have a 20×30 poster of Barry Brust over your desk?

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