Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "Brodeur: Beyond The Crease," an autobiography written by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in association with Toronto Star columnist and ESPN.com contributor Damien Cox.
There's a method I have developed for getting ready to play, and I don't like to deviate from it very much. Before any game, it starts with sitting down and viewing a DVD of the last game I played against the team I'm facing that night. I used to watch it at the arena, but now I usually watch it at home or at the team hotel before I go to the rink. The DVD will show me every shot, every save, every goal and every time I handled the puck. I analyze myself, my positioning, my mistakes and my decision-making, and I also look at my defensemen, their tendencies, mistakes that were made and ways to improve our performance together.
For example, I never want my defensemen in the blue paint with me. I want our guys, as much as they can, to stay on their feet and buy time rather than make desperate, risky plays. When we get a new player, there's usually an adjustment. It was difficult, for example, for a player like Richard Matvichuk when he came to the Devils because he was used to blocking shots in Dallas in a variety of ways. He learned under one of the game's best shot blockers, Craig Ludwig, and naturally he wanted to play the same way when he came to New Jersey. But we don't do that. We don't sprawl and throw our bodies around. We buy time.
My routine also includes the pre-game meal, and my favorite is spaghetti with tomato sauce, sometimes with grilled chicken. My preference is to arrive at 5 o'clock for a 7:30 game, although the frustrating traffic patterns of northern New Jersey sometimes make that difficult. I play with a new stick every game, so the first thing I do at the rink is get my sticks ready. I'll use one for warmup, one to play and have three new ones on the bench. Some of the sticks I may use later for practice. I mark the ones I use in games on the knob with the date and the opponent, so if I give them away to friends, family or charity, that information is there on the stick. I give away more than a hundred sticks every season. My teammates always want them, but I often laugh when I see them everywhere for sale. In my first year, I used Sherwood sticks, but since then I have used CCM or Heaton. I haven't changed my stick pattern in a decade.
Dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops, I like to sit on the couch and hang out with my teammates, just shooting the breeze and talking about just about anything until the team meeting with the coaches 90 minutes before game time. That meeting is usually short and to the point, just going over some basic information about our opponent. When that's over, I'm the first one on the massage table. We've had different people over the years, but my favorite was Tom Plasko, who joined the Devils for the '05–06 season. While he works, he talks to you positively, makes sure you feel loose. I first used him with the 2004 World Cup when I was struggling with a stress hernia problem. After that tournament, I felt better than I had in years. He releases the muscles, cracks my back, and does a little work on my hamstring or shoulder, whatever might be bothering me. He knows exactly what needs to be done to my stomach and abdominal muscles, and the whole treatment takes about five minutes.
After that, I go into the trainer's room, talk to the trainer, make sure my teammates have been able to organize the tickets they need for that game and little things like that. After that, I stretch for 10 minutes, nothing too fancy or elaborate, just enough to add to what has already been accomplished with the massage.
Now it's time to sit in my stall and focus on the game. I like to visualize the possibilities, and I look at the opposition's lineup to find the players I can see easily in my head. I don't keep a little black book on shooters. It's all in my head. I know from experience which way everybody shoots, their tendencies and what they like to do. Still, there are so many new guys all the time in a 30-team league, there are going to be unfamiliar players in many games.
I start to get dressed, and I do everything left to right, more by habit than superstition. In every NHL dressing room, there is a pre-game clock that starts counting down from 40 minutes, and when it's down to zero that's the end of the 16-minute warmup. So at 35, I get dressed to the waist, and at 23 minutes I put on my shoulder pads and jersey. At 18 minutes and counting, I put on my gloves and helmet. The rule is, teams can't go on the ice until 16 minutes are left on the clock. If we're playing at home, I wait until 16:20 because I know that will have me stepping on the ice at exactly the 16-minute mark.
For the pre-game warmup itself, my routine changes, although I always like to take one shot on net, top shelf, before I skate off. That's the part of the evening when, particularly in New Jersey, fans get down close to the ice surface to get a look at their favorite NHL players. Sometimes it can be a bit dangerous for them.
Before a game against Toronto in the 2005-06 season, one of my teammates took a slap shot from well out and the puck hit my stick, then bounced high in the air over the protective netting behind the goals. I watched it, and like a long, high punt it plummeted and hit an older lady right in the face. She went down hard, with her husband at her side. I knew it wasn't my fault, but it really left me feeling terrible. I skated to the bench and asked our trainer to send my stick to her and signed it. When I came back on the ice for the game, I looked for her and there she was, back up and ready to watch the game. She waved to me with the stick I had sent her. She was okay, and I sure felt a lot better. That kind of interaction with the fans is fun for me and great for them. One of the things I love to do is wink at people in the crowd during breaks in the game. It makes their day, and that connection with the fans is something I need to get out of the game.
After the warmup, I go into the dressing room, take my mask and gloves off, and drink three-quarters of a can of Sprite. That's my drink. Gatorade hurts my stomach, and water just doesn't give me enough of a lift. I'll drink three cans of Sprite a night; one before the game, and one during each of the intermissions.
The clock in the dressing room then resets, with the countdown beginning at 15 minutes. At eight minutes, I put my body armor and jersey back on. At three minutes, I get fully dressed and ready to lead the team out onto the ice, something I've always done when I'm playing. I'm prepared and ready to play.