|Scott Niedermayer celebrates the Devils' 2000 Stanley Cup victory with Daneyko and wrestler Bill Goldberg. (B Bennett/Getty Images) |
One of the first moments that stood out to me about Scott Niedermayer came during a practice in his first full season, 1992-93. I'm not sure if Scott remembers it, but we had lost a few games in a row and we had one of those no-puck skate-'til-you-drop punishment type of practices that coaches implemented back then. After an hour straight of skating I came in to the locker room and laid down on the floor exhausted. After taking off my equipment I looked like I had just been in the shower, sweating profusely. Nieder comes in maybe 30 seconds later, takes his shoulder pads off and I remember seeing a giant raindrop in the middle of his T-shirt. That was the extent of his sweat. We all looked at him in amazement as I asked, "Wasn't that even remotely hard for you?" His only response was, "No, that was pretty hard," and that was it.
You could tell it was effortless for him. That's when I knew we had something special. He was a machine. He worked just as hard as everybody but for him it came easy.
I remember when Scott first came in. He had a cup of coffee as an 18-year-old, and then, as a 19-year-old who was mature beyond his years both on and off the ice, he became a staple of our team.
Scott stood out in everything he did but his skating ability separated him from everybody. He was as good a skater as I have ever seen in my 30 years of professional hockey.
When I look back over the past 25 years I don't think I've seen a defenseman who can control the tempo of the game like him. He'd slow it down, speed it up, whatever he wanted. He could make the whole game move in slow motion because he was that gifted and that good of a skater. Someone asked where I rated him and he might be the best I've ever seen. When playing with him I knew that if I got in trouble, I would look for Scott Niedermayer and he would settle everything down.
What stands out was Scott's skating ability. It was like he was floating on the ice. While most of us are digging into the ice, it's like he's floating across it, like a guy walking on water.
But as good as he was, if you look at his statistics, he probably sacrificed a lot of numbers. Despite being a defensive, very sound positional team, we still scored plenty of goals. But having said that, it frustrated Nieder because it was a double-edged sword. He had 700-something points, but his numbers could have been way gaudier if it was up-tempo all the time. But I think it made him more of a complete player. But you always knew he had something special in him, and what put him in the elite status was Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final, going end to end against the Detroit Red Wings. That was the coming-out of Scott Niedermayer. He came out of his shell. Whether it was him being stifled or him believing that's what they didn't want him to do as much of, he trusted his instincts and took the puck end-to-end to score a highlight-reel goal you will see for many years to come.
His stride and gracefulness helped him pull away from everyone like a thoroughbred. It was an effortless stride. That moment against Detroit, that's when we knew we had a special player in this guy. End to end, not many guys could do that.
I roomed with him for a while and I was fortunate to be his main defense partner for the better part of five years. For a young kid you looked up to him for the way he handled himself on and off the ice. Playing as long as I did, I think someone told me I had 215 or 219 different teammates, it is impossible to keep in touch with them all. But when you win the Stanley Cup three times with someone, you create a special bond. Reflecting back I feel very fortunate to have played with one of the greats, as Scott was not only an electrifying player but an amazing individual.
It's going to be very heartwarming to watch a great teammate and a great player, a guy I respect immensely, go into the Hall of Fame.
Author: Ken Daneyko | Special to NHL.com