By Sweeny Murti
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Celebrating legendary players as their careers come to an end has become commonplace at Yankee Stadium. We’re going through it again this year as Derek Jeter plays his final season with the Yankees.
Across the river, another all-time great just may have played his last game with his longtime team, or maybe even his last game ever. How long has Martin Brodeur been a fixture in New Jersey? He played his first game for the Devils in March 1992, when Jeter was a senior in high school. And Brodeur won the first of his three Stanley Cup championships in 1995, when Jeter was just getting his first cup of coffee in the major leagues.
I asked Jeter if he was much of a hockey fan, and he said no.
“I’m from Michigan, so hockey was big (there), but I can’t really stop on ice skates so I never really got into hockey,” he told me.
But who better to appreciate greatness of one man’s career in this market than Jeter, who’s had no ties to Brodeur over the years, but still was impressed as I rattled off the Devils great’s career accomplishments.
“To do anything in any profession for that long is pretty remarkable if you think about it,” Jeter said. “That’s just something that — at the highest level — it’s just something that’s not done too often.”
And Jeter certainly appreciated the fact that the Devils uniform is the only one Brodeur has worn for more than two decades.
“That’s another thing that’s unheard of, especially this day and age in sports,” he said. “You just do not see it. I mean, that’s pretty remarkable.”
And just like the great Yankees of the last championship era, Jeter thinks the appreciation for Brodeur will only grow as the years go on.
“I think it’s something that probably will be appreciated more when he’s gone … which is sad to say,” Jeter said. “But I think a lot of times when you’re used to consistency and someone always being there … when they’re gone you realize how important it was. Man, what a job by him. He should be commended for that.”
I mentioned that Brodeur probably doesn’t get his just due in part because of the sport he plays and where he plays it. But Jeter knows the value of a player like that in a true team sport.
“I can guarantee you he’s not under-appreciated by his teammates.”
He added: “You know, I get the fact that hockey may not be as big of a sport as maybe football or basketball, but I don’t care if you’re out there playing in a summer softball league—to do it for 20-something years, it’s very, very hard to do. And he should be appreciated for that. It’s pretty much unheard of and you’re going to hear less and less of that as time goes on, especially one team, you just won’t hear it.”
The part about one team—that’s what seems to stick with Jeter the most in this conversation. You obviously have to be good at what you do to be able to do it at the highest level for so long. But the loyalty and appreciation it takes from both player and organization to make it last, that’s what separates players like that from other greats in their game.
Jeter has always said he has never considered playing anywhere else. He was a free agent once in his career (after the 2010 season), didn’t seem to care for the process all that much, and in February made the announcement he would retire as a Yankee at season’s end — on his terms.
I mentioned to Jeter the uncertainty of Brodeur’s future, and the possibility that he could still play next year, but it might be in another uniform.
“Man, I hope not,” Jeter said. “I don’t know him, but I hope he gets to finish exactly how he wants to finish. If he wants to come back (to New Jersey) then I hope he gets that opportunity. And if he wants to go play somewhere else, then … as long as it’s what he wants to do.”
From one all-time great to another.
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