Richard Brodeur no longer goes shopping or dining in Vancouver with his wife Raymonde. The adoration of the Canucks' rabid fans makes the little goalie uncomfortable.
For more than a decade, Brodeur has found the New York Islanders upsetting, too. He figures a Vancouver victory Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, would be a good start toward balancing the books.
Brodeur's Islander connection began in 1972, after he had led the Cornwall Royals to the Memorial Cup. The expansion New York club drafted him 97th that year, but he chose instead to join the Quebec Nordiques of the fledgling World Hockey Association.
"The Islanders had some good NHL goalies (Bill Smith, Gerry Desjardins and Chico Resch) and they offered me a one-year contract at a ridiculous salary," Brodeur recalled today. "Quebec offered me a good contract and I told myself if I was going to play in the minors anyway, I might as well play in the best minor league, and that was the WHA."
After seven highly successful seasons with the Nordiques, Brodeur found himself obligated to the Islanders, as a result of New York's exercising its prior claim during the NHL-WHA merger in 1979. Resch and Smith were still around, battling for the No. 1 job; Brodeur was tagged for minor league insurance.
"Sure, it was tough to come here after Quebec gassed me, wouldn't protect me," Brodeur said. "I knew they had Smitty and Resch and there was no way I could play for the Islanders unless they made a trade. I didn't have to be a genius to know I'd be in Indianapolis.
"In my mind, I knew I could play. I thought I was just as good as Resch or Smith. In training camp I gave it my best try. I wanted to make sure they'd remember me."
Brodeur played only 80 minutes with the Islanders, but he led the Central League with his 2.88 goals-against mark at Indianapolis. Vancouver General Manager Jake Milford wangled his rights away from New York for about the lowest possible price, a flip-flop of fifth-round draft picks. Instead of cheering emancipation, Brodeur contemplated retirement.
"Vancouver didn't need me either," Brodeur said. "They had (Glen) Hanlon and (Gary) Bromley. I told Jake I wasn't going to Dallas. I had saved some money and I was ready to quit and start my own business. But he said I'd get a chance with the Canucks."
Hanlon was injured and Brodeur eventually became the Canucks' No. 1 goalie, recording a 3.51 goals-against mark in 52 games. This season he was among the NHL's best, with 3.35 in 52 games. Playing in all 14 Vancouver playoff games this spring, he has been phenomenal, with a 2.51 record despite those six goals in Saturday's overtime loss.
Brodeur insists he can quickly forget a game once it is over. In the case of Saturday's contest, that is a blessing.