Richard Brodeur is a former professional hockey player who tended goal for the World Hockey Association's Quebec Nordiques and the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. He's best remembered for his stellar play during the 1981-82 NHL playoffs, during which his play sparked the Canucks to an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals.

Brodeur was born on September 15, 1952 in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada. After playing minor hockey in Quebec, he joined the QMJHL's Cornwall Royals midway through the 1970-71 season, an appeared in 35 games. The next season, Brodeur started all but four of the team's games, notching a record of 40-17-1 with a GAA of 2.93. Brodeur backstopped the Royals to the league championship, then led the club to its first Memorial Cup victory. Brodeur's GAA of 1.67 still stands as a Memorial Cup tournament record.

Brodeur was selected 97th overall by the Islanders in the 1972 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to this, though, he had been drafted by the Quebec Nordiques of the upstart WHA. Brodeur opted to remain close to home, and signed with the Nordiques.

Brodeur played in at least 24 games in each of the WHA's seven years of existence, is one of only three WHA goaltenders to witness the beginning and end of the league. In his seven seasons with the Nords, Brodeur compiled a record of 165W-114L-12T and a playoff record of 26-23. With Brodeur between the pipes, Quebec reached the Avco Cup finals twice (losing to the Houston Aeros in 1975, but beating the Winnipeg Jets in 1977). Brodeur's most productive season was 1975-76, when he led the league in appearances (69) and set a record for wins (44). Brodeur was named a WHA Second Team All-Star in 1978-79.

Following the collapse of the WHA in 1979, the rosters of the league were divvied up between the NHL teams. Even the four former-WHA teams that transitioned into the NHL -- one of whom were the Nords -- had many of their best players plucked from them. Brodeur was reclaimed by the New York Islanders, but was one of the few players protected by the Nords. The two clubs agreed on a trade, sending Brodeur to Long Island for a Swedish goaltending prospect. THe problem was that the Islanders already had one of the world's premiere netminders in Billy Smith, so Brodeur was assigned to the Indianapolis Checkers of the now-defunct Central Hockey League. Brodeur made the best of a bad situation, and won the Terry Sawchuk Award (along with fellow goalie Jim Park).

After a full season with the Islanders organization, Brodeur had only played four periods of NHL hockey. At the beginning of the 1980-81 season, Brodeur was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. The netminder was immediately handed the starting job, which may not have been the most enviable position in professional hockey. The mid-80s editions of the Canucks were a tough, grinding hockey clubs that had the misfortune to be stuck in the most competitive, open-scoring division in the NHL... the Smythe Division. A guaranteed eight matchups per season each with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames (who together won six Stanley Cups during the 80s) puts any team at a disadvantage. Brodeur's record reflects this; during his seven complete seasons with the Canucks, he only could manage a plus-.500 record once.

That one season (1981-82, Brodeur's second campaign on the West Coast) ended with a glorious run for the championship. Richard Brodeur picked the absolute best time to peak, and single-handedly elevated the play of the team (often from behind a shoddy defense). The Canucks, buoyed by Brodeur's inspired play and by the sea of white towels waved by home crowds, beat the Flames, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks before falling to Brodeur's nemesis, the New York Islanders, in four straight. Vancouver fans adored the man they now called "King Richard."

After 1981-82, Brodeur's remaining years in Vancouver were ones of mediocrity. For the next five years, the Canucks failed to win a playoff series, and Brodeur's GAA ballooned past the 4.00 mark. By 1987, Brodeur's age was catching up to him, and he spent much of the 1987-88 season recovering from nagging injuries. The Canucks organization was grooming a young goalie named Kirk Maclean, so Brodeur (and his high salary) were traded to the Hartford Whalers in March 1988. Brodeur only played six games with his new club before the end of the season. The Whalers assigned Brodeur to their farm team in Binghamton, New York at the start of the 1988-89 campaign; pressing Brodeur into retirement shortly after the season's start. His NHL career stats are 131W-175L-62T.

Richard Brodeur's name will always be linked to that 1982 title run, but that one spring doesn't do his career justice. With his retirement, the last of the first-season WHA players left the game. (The only remaining NHLer with WHA credentials is Mark Messier.) The fact that he was one of the circuit's best netminders eludes most hockey fans. Brodeur was named the Canucks' MVP in 1980-81, 1981-82 and 1984-85. He holds all the WHA-era Quebec Nordiques' goaltending records, and ranks behind only Maclean for all of the the Canucks' franchise records. He was named Number 9 on a fan-selected poll of the all-time great Canucks. Brodeur also represents a continuation of the long line of stellar French-Canadian goalies that started with Georges Vezina and Jacques Plante, continued with King Richard and Gilles Meloche and exists to this day with Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur (no relation) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Today, Richard Brodeur runs "King Richard's Hockey School" in Burnaby, British Columbia and sponsors the annual Richard Brodeur Celebrity Golf Classic which benefits leukemia research.


Sources:
The Goaltender Homepage - http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~norrisdt/bio/brodeurr.html
CanucksWorld.com Franchise Records - http://canucksworld.com/history/records.php
The Vancouver Canucks Almanac - http://www.canucksalmanac.hispeed.com/index.html
Joel's World of Goalies - http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Arena/7632/
The Internet Hockey Database - http://www.hockeydb.com

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