Only three current Ducks – Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Rob Niedermayer and Samuel Pahlsson – were with the team during its last visit to New Jersey
. That came in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, when the Devils vanquished the Ducks 3-0 to take the Cup.
|Niedermayer won three Stanley Cups in 13 seasons with the Devils. |
One of the leaders of that Devils team was Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who makes his first return to New Jersey since signing with Anaheim in the summer of ’05. The 34-year-old Niedermayer played his first 13 NHL seasons in New Jersey, helping the Devils to three Stanley Cups along the way, the last coming in ’03.
“I’m excited,” Niedermayer said. “It’s going to be interesting the see the reception from the fans. To play there as long as I did and to come back again is very exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Only 10 of Niedermayer’s former teammates remain with the Devils, so the team looks a bit different from when he was there. So does the building, as this year the Devils moved into the brand new Prudential Center in Newark, a far cry from their former home, Continental Airlines Arena in the Meadowlands.
“I’m anxious to see the new building,” Niedermayer said. “I’ve heard good things about it. It won’t have the memories Continental Arena did. It will change the experience, but there will be familiar faces in the crowd.”
Some of that crowd might give Niedermayer a chilly reception tonight, still bitter over his leaving the team as a free agent to play with his brother Rob in Anaheim. “My expectations are pretty wide open about that,” Niedermayer said. “I’m sure there will be some boos, but that’s not going to change my outlook and my memories.”
There isn’t any resentment held by Niedermayer’s former teammates, including All-Star goalie Martin Brodeur. “Regardless of how educated the fans are about that situation, there are so many good memories about him being here with us,” Brodeur said. “He’s an unbelievable player, the top offensive defenseman I’ve played with. He’s such a great player and a great guy. He’s a guy that came to play every night, a guy that should never get booed.”
Though Niedermayer is gone, there is a still a No. 27 in red in New Jersey, but now it’s being worn by defenseman Mike Mottau. But Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said earlier in the week that Niedermayer’s jersey would someday be retired by the team “without question, because of what he brought to the organization while he was here. He represented this organization with the highest ability and class you can ask of anyone.”
Typical of Niedermayer, he says he doesn’t think too much about that. “That’s a consideration for other people when I retire,” said Niedermayer, who join the Ducks in December after contemplating retirement following his fourth Stanley Cup title last June. “I have a lot of great memories. What more could you ask for that being part of three Stanley Cup teams? I made a lot of great friends, had a lot of great teammates.”