Volume 91, Issue 76

Thursday, February 12, 1998




No question

When Canadian Olympic hockey coach Marc Crawford announced on Monday that Patrick Roy would be the team's No. 1 goaltender, the coach made the wise decision.

Notwithstanding, there could be a beef made for New Jersey Devil netminder Martin Brodeur, who is the leading candidate for the Vezna Trophy (awarded to the NHL's best goaltender) with a solid 21-11-4 record at the Olympic break. Broudeur's minuscule 1.76 goals against average, in addition to his six shutouts, are a big reason why the Devils currently lead the Eastern Conference standings.

In comparison, Roy's G.A.A. looks like a blimp – 2.31 goals per game. Furthermore, Roy can boast of only two occasions where he has held the opposition scoreless in a game.

One can, however, knock Brodeur's statistics and point to the defensive style of play that New Jersey uses, which no doubt pads his win total and keeps his goals against down. Meanwhile, even though Brodeur's save percentage of .925 is .004 percentage points better than Roy's, Brodeur gets far more bad-angle shots that are easier to save.

While Brodeur has made some breathtaking saves this year, when it comes to the Olympics, it's time go with old faithful before the young phenomenon.

Brodeur had his chance to shine in last year's World Cup. It was Brodeur who was manning the pipes when Canada suffered the heart-breaking, Game Three loss to the United States and although it would be unreasonable to put the blame squarely on Brodeur's shoulders, the fact remains that he was the starting goalie on a Team Canada that wasn't supposed to lose.

Soon after the devastating World Cup loss to the United States last year, fans and players alike were left questioning whether things would have been different if Roy, who was not even invited to try-out by the team's general manager Glen Sather, had been in goal.

This time around, Sather isn't prepared to make the same mistake – Roy became a shoe-in to make Team Canada from the beginning.

Now it's up to the 32-year-old goalie to prove himself on the international hockey scene, the only realm of sport in which he hasn't had an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities.

Also, despite the pile of puck-stopping talent Crawford has to choose from, it is understandable why Crawford arrived at the decision to go with a single netminder for the duration of the Olympics.

"I think it's a very smart decision so there is no confusion as to the roles that each player has," Crawford said. "It's my firm belief that you have to establish a No. 1 goaltender in a tournament like this."

And it's hard not to entrust a goalie who's sixth on the NHL's all-time list for victories with 373 – to go along with winning three Veznas and three Stanley Cups.

Even Brodeur admits Roy was his childhood idol and one could only imagine the pressure Brodeur would feel having Roy breathing down the back of his neck as the back-up.

Regardless, at the bare minimum, having Roy in net will be a psychological benefit to every Team Canada member, now knowing they have someone who has proven himself to be the best netminder in the game over the past decade and not just the past three seasons (sorry, Martin).

How important will goaltending be in this tournament? Mike Richter's stellar play virtually handed the Americans the World Cup. Roy has demonstrated that he too can be the deciding factor in not just a single game, but an entire series. Thanks to Pat, this isn't the same Team Canada that lost to the U.S. in the World Cup – this is Team Canada, plus the most dominating goalie the world has seen over the past decade.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998