Future Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Brodeur and Jagr Speak in the Bronx
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 27- The players of the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils had their practice sessions on the recently constructed ice rink on the field of Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Although the result of the regular season game on Sunday is important to both teams in the tightly contested Metropolitan Division of the NHL, the seriousness of the practice was tempered by the pleasure of the presence of so many family members on the ice with the players of each team.
After the Devils’ practice concluded, two special players, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur, were invited to the Interview room in the Yankee Stadium basement for a mass press interview. Although each was born in a different part of the world, Jagr in Kladno, Czechoslovakia, then a part of the Communist world, and Brodeur in Montreal Canada, they have much in common.
Each was born in 1972, Broduer less than three months later; each is a left-hander; each was drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft of 1990, Jagr the 5th overall selection and Brodeur the 20th ; each has earned an Olympic Gold Medal with his native country’s team; each has been an integral member of a Stanley Cup champion and each will be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame shortly after his legendary NHL career concludes.
The two greats were good humored, patient and open to all questions from the journalists in the room. Jagr humorously spoke of the huge size of the locker room, “There’s a lot of great dressing rooms, but I’ve never seen nothing like that, so big you can’t hold a team meeting; if you make a mistake, the coach can’t find you in 15 minutes. “When he first entered the Yankee clubhouse, he jokingly asked for a GPS.
The 41 year-old was asked if he believed the frigid weather would affect him. He had mixed feelings contrasting New York’s weather to Moscow, where he played in Red Square and in Los Angeles, where the Kings and Ducks were competing that night, “This is like summer compared to Moscow. If I had to choose to play here or L.A., I would choose L.A. [he laughed]. It would probably be a lot better for my body to play in different conditions.”
He was asked to express his feelings regarding playing in Yankee Stadium, “When Czechoslovakia was Communist I didn’t even know about the NHL. Since I came here [24 years ago], I follow baseball, basketball and American football. It’s very special just to play here. I took pictures, Babe Ruth.”
The experienced professional was very concerned about how the result affect the goal of reaching the playoffs, “Any points and any victory can make a big difference. We have to play better than we did yesterday. We have to make sure we get some points tomorrow.”
Brodeur shortly followed Jagr to the Interview Room. After the Devils’ practice, Devils coach Peter DeBoer announced Brodeur would start in goal on Sunday. The veteran goalie reacted, “I’m happy to play a game; it’s been more than a week.” [Brodeur last played on January 18]. The veteran said, “They felt it meant a lot to me. For me, it’s the last one [rivalry game outdoors].”
The Canadian understands the importance of the Yankees and Yankee Stadium, “After 21 years in the New York area, I know what the Yankees mean here and to the world of sport. It’s a good feeling to be in this building. To be in the first game here is very exciting. It’s an unbelievable setting.”
Brodeur recalled childhood experiences when speaking of playing hockey outdoors, “When I grew up in Montreal, for us, we took it for granted. I did it every day; it’s great memories.” He felt he was overdressed even for the cold, ‘I had too much, gloves, ski mask two tee shirts; it wasn’t bad.”
Like his teammate, Jagr, he also spoke of the importance of the game, “It’s a big event, but at the end of the day, it’s just hockey. The points are important.”
Of the idea of this series and the game in California, he opined, “It’s a great idea to have these rivalry games outdoors.”
Hopefully, those in attendance will realize they are watching two of the legends in NHL history, Jagr and Brodeur.
Tags: NHL, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Yankee Stadium