Former MasterCard Memorial Cup Champion goaltender is an accomplished artist:
King Richard’s CANVASBy Bob Duff
Idling as the backup goaltender with the Verdun Maple Leafs during the 1970/71 QMJHL season, Richard Brodeur’s big break came with a trade that season to the Cornwall Royals.
It would turn out to be a multifaceted opportunity.
Not only did it win Brodeur the MasterCard Memorial Cup with the Royals the following season, opening the door to an NHL career highlighted by his backstopping of the Vancouver Canucks to the 1981/82 Stanley Cup Final. For his exploits in Cornwall, Brodeur was recently honoured by being enshrined in the QMJHL Hall of Fame. But his move to Cornwall also introduced Brodeur to his second career, one that continues today. He is fast gaining a place among Canada’s most prominent artists.
“His work is extremely popular,” said Brenda Alberts of the Birthplace of B.C. Gallery in Fort Langley in B.C.’s lower mainland, which shows Brodeur’s paintings. “We can’t keep them in stock for long, there’s such a high demand for his paintings.”
Brodeur’s most popular works are entitled My Childhood Memories and were inspired by his own son’s request for his dad to provide illustration to the stories he told about playing hockey on outdoor rinks as a youngster growing up in Longueuil, Que.
Some of his paintings reference Brodeur’s own childhood heroes such as Montreal Canadiens stars Jean Beliveau, Maurice (Rocket) Richard and Yvan Cournoyer. In later work, he’s paid tribute to modern-day Vancouver Canucks stars like Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins.
“They really seem to have touched a place in the hearts of Canadians,” Alberts said of this genre of Brodeur’s repertoire, a fact Brodeur does not dispute.
“It brings me back to where I grew up,” Brodeur said. “But people from across the country tell me it reminds them of their childhood, too.”
Utilizing oils, acrylics and watercolours to create his abstract works of youngsters battling on the pond, Brodeur, nicknamed King Richard during Vancouver’s magical 1982 Stanley Cup run, extends his deft touch with the brush to landscapes featuring
scenes from fishing villages in B.C.’s Haida Gwaii (Islands of the People), to the lakes and orchards of B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, and the ports and coves of Nova Scotia.
“Painting has always been a passion of mine,” said Brodeur, 59. “When I was playing with the Canucks, I was painting at home and brought a sketch pad with me on the road.”
And it was a passion that officially took flight while he was backstopping the Royals to their 1972 Memorial Cup crown. Brodeur’s father, a machinist, dabbled in sketch work as a hobby, and young Richard not only followed his father’s artwork, he displayed a real knack for it. Upon arriving in Cornwall, Brodeur studied under a high school art teacher who introduced him to the next level, convincing the 18-year-old netminder to put brush to canvas.
It came to be his release from the pressures of puck stopping. “I’d paint until two or three in the morning after a game,” Brodeur said. “It relaxed me.” Rather than over-analyzing a performance, Brodeur found partaking in a creative outlet with a brush and paints allowed him to free his mind of such stress.
“I just did it because I liked it,” said Brodeur, who didn’t realize his talent as an artist until he was into his 50s.
His talent between the pipes, though, was realized at a young age.
Brodeur led the league in wins (43), shutouts (four) and goals-against average (2.91) in leading the Royals to the QMJHL title and a berth in the first tournament-format Memorial Cup. Played in Ottawa during the spring of 1972, Cornwall fell 4-2 to the Peterborough Petes in the tourney opener, but rebounded to blank the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second game, earning a rematch with the unbeaten 2-0 Petes in the final.
Some 10,000 crammed their way into the Ottawa Civic Centre for the final, and Governor-General Roland Michener performed the ceremonial faceoff duties.
Brian Bowles gave Cornwall a 1-0 lead, then Mike St. Cyr tied the score. The game-winning goal was the result of a fluke play. Gary MacGregor’s dump-in carried over the Peterborough goal, hit the glass, then bounded off theback of Petes goalie Mike Veisor and into the net.
Brodeur, who made 46 saves, shut the door the rest of the way. He was named Memorial Cup MVP and his tournament GAA of 1.67 stood as the Memorial Cup record until 2007.
“It’s a special memory in my career,” Brodeur said. “To end my junior career with a Memorial Cup win was an unbelievable achievement.”
Undersized for a goalie at 5’7″, Brodeur was always having to prove his worth to pro
scouts and ended up spurning the expansion New York Islanders, who had selected him in the
1972 NHL amateur draft, for the Quebec Nordiques of the upstart World Hockey Association. One of three goalies to appear in all seven seasons of the rival league, Brodeur backstopped the Nordiques to the 1976/77 Avco Cup title and, in 1975/76, set a WHA record with 44 wins.
He joined the Islanders in 1979/80 when the NHL and WHA merged, but it was a trade to the Canucks in October of 1980 that not only opened up his NHL opportunity but helped return Brodeur to painting when he and his wife began searching for art to hang in their new Vancouver home.
Instead of buying work done by others, he set out to create his own masterpieces.
Brodeur had let his artwork slide into the background when pro hockey presented its opportunity, and he admitted that even when he once more picked up his brushes, he kept it quiet, fearing a brush-off from his teammates.
“It’s not something I mentioned to my teammates,” Brodeur said. “You’re always considered a flake as a goalie anyways, and then if you walk in the locker room and tell them you’re an artist, they are going to laugh.”
The popularity of his paintings has ensured Brodeur won’t be a starving artist. Today, this man who carried Cornwall to Memorial Cup glory 40 years ago is laughing all the way to the bank.
“I have had two passions in my life,” Brodeur said. “One was playing hockey and the other one was my art. And I’m a lucky guy, because I have been able to do both.”
Bob Duff is a sports reporter for the Windsor Star.
COUPE MEMORIAL MASTERCARD 2012