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Niedermayer discusses career on 'NHL Hour'

Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 7:36 PM / NHL Insider

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Niedermayer discusses career on 'NHL Hour'
Success followed Scott Niedermayer throughout his career -- including the four Cups he won as a member of the Devils and Ducks.
Success followed Scott Niedermayer throughout his hockey career -- including, but hardly limited to, the four Stanley Cups he won as a member of the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks.

Niedermayer won every major North American and international hockey championship out there, beginning with a gold medal for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in 1991 and including the Memorial Cup with Kamloops a year later, an IIHF World Championship as well as the World Cup of Hockey in 2004 and Olympic gold for Canada in 2002 and 2010.

On the eve of having his No. 27 retired by the Devils, the smooth-skating defenseman appeared on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman" to talk about that unprecedented achievement.

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"It's definitely been fun," Niedermayer said. "Obviously for the last 20-plus years of playing hockey I've been very fortunate to play for some great organizations. Obviously when you get the chance to represent Canada in an international hockey tournament, your chances of having success are always good, they obviously take hockey very seriously there. I just have been fortunate -- played with so many great teammates."

Two of Niedermayer's former teammates and defense partners, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, are the only other Devils to have their numbers retired. When he first joined the club at age 18 after being the No. 3 pick in the 1991 NHL Draft, it was an ideal learning environment.

"For a young defenseman to come into the League and to have those two guys to watch and play with and learn from," Niedermayer said. "And I had more -- (Viacheslav) Fetisov and (Alexei) Kasatonov, two great Russian defensemen, were on the team when I first got there. {So was] Bruce Driver, another accomplished veteran player who had a great career.

"I stepped in amongst all these veteran defensemen. I probably couldn't have picked a more perfect situation for my style of play, for a young defenseman to become part of a defensive corps that had all these guys in it. I learned a lot -- there was no pressure on me to really do anything because they had a very good group there that was doing all the heavy lifting and I kind of just go in and out and do my thing and learned a lot on the way."

Skating and contributing to the offense was a major of component of Niedermayer doing his thing -- his end-to-end rush that resulted in the tying goal in Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final, a series in which the Devils went on to sweep the heavily favored Red Wings for their first title, is an often-replayed highlight in the franchise's history. A Norris Trophy winner in 2004, Niedermayer reached double digits in goals 11 times in his 17 full seasons; he posted career highs of 15 goals and 69 points in 2006-07, when he won his fourth Cup and led the Ducks to their first championship.

"We were on the ice quite a bit as kids, a lot of times without hockey sticks," Niedermayer said of himself and brother Rob, with whom he teamed up during the 2007 Cup run. "Whether it was power skating -- you know, when we were real young, learn to skate classes, figure skating, power skating in the summer. My parents kind of thought that was important, that was sort of what they felt would help a hockey player get around the ice.

Scott Niedermay scored 172 goals and 740 points through 1,263 games, winning four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe trophy, one Norris trophy, and two Olympic Gold Medals. (Photo: Getty Images)
"It definitely helped. It was definitely my strength as a player. I tried to use it to my advantage. Maybe early in my career the coaches were sort of thinking it was a disadvantage -- I was getting into trouble too much by getting up and down the ice or getting places I shouldn't be. But it came in handy at times, especially if I did make a mistake, sometimes I was able to maybe get back into position by using my skating."

Niedermayer admitted his offensive philosophy sometimes clashed with his more defensive-minded coaches in New Jersey, which included Hall of Famers Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson. But he also acknowledged it made him a better all-round player and contributed to the amount of team success he was able to enjoy.

Still, after winning his third Cup with the Devils in 2003 -- at the expense of Rob and the Ducks in a hard-fought, seven-game series -- Niedermayer found himself thinking about what life might be like somewhere else. After playing one more season in New Jersey and becoming a free agent, he signed in Anaheim during the summer of 2004 and finished his career with five seasons in Southern California.

Coming back to New Jersey for the jersey retirement ceremony prior to Friday's game against the Dallas Stars figures to be a unique experience.

"It wasn't any easy decision. I do feel bad that I had to leave New Jersey," Niedermayer said of his departure, adding the organization had always been good to him. "Going to the rink tomorrow, it's going to be a little emotional in that sense, because for them to feel that highly of what I did here, even considering that I decided to play somewhere else, makes it to me more special. So I'm looking forward to that and I expect to feel a little emotional with that being the case, for sure."


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