Warren Strelow’s name came up last week when Martin Brodeur won his 552nd game in goal to break Patrick Roy’s career record. For the uninitiated, the late Strelow was the Capitals’ goalie coach from 1983 to 1989, the first full-timer to hold that position in the NHL. (The Caps didn’t just become cutting edge when Ted Leonsis took over, you know. They had a few brainstorms back in David Poile’s days as general manager, too.)
Anyway, Strelow later served in the same capacity with the New Jersey Devils, and it was he who recommended that the club draft Brodeur in the first round in 1990 – instead of the top netminding prospect that year, Trevor Kidd. (Warren was pretty good at these evaluations. A decade earlier, as an assistant on the United States’ “Miracle on Ice” Olympic team, he had tapped Jim Craig to tend goal.)
Calgary wound up taking Kidd – who had the added attraction of being a local boy – with the 11th overall pick. The Devils took Brodeur at No. 20 … and by the time he was 23, he was backstopping them to the first of three Stanley Cups.
Four Vezina and four Jennings trophies followed. Kidd, meanwhile, was never much more than a journeyman in his 12 seasons in the league.
“Warren was the first guy who believed in me,” Brodeur told Ian O’Connor of the Bergen Record. “He wasn’t a French guy” – in fact, he was a Minnesotan – “and you figure you’d have somebody from your own people who … really believed in me. But now coming from the outside, an American guy coming into St. Hyacinthe and saying, `This is the kid we need to get,’ that’s why I have special thoughts about him all the time.
“Warren came to my junior games, sat behind my goal and told the organization, `This is the goalie you’ve got to take, not Trevor Kidd.’”
Strelow, who had already coached the Caps’ Al Jensen and Pat Riggin to the Jennings Trophy (which goes to the goalie tandem with the lowest goals-against average) tutored Brodeur for a year when he was with the Utica Devils, New Jersey’s No. 1 farm club. The next season Martin won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie.
A stroke – after years of poor health – claimed Strelow in 2007 at age 73. But not before he had gone to San Jose and helped develop Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprosoff, of course, won the Vezina/Jennings double with Calgary in 2005-06 – the Flames’ consolation prize from the Old Goalie Coach, perhaps, for not seeing in Brodeur what he did.
– Dan Daly