Former players from the 2006-07 Ducks came from all over the world for the 10-Year Stanley Cup Celebration on March 12 at Honda Center. But the captain from that team hasn't been far from Anaheim over the past decade.
Scott Niedermayer still lives in Irvine with his wife, Lisa, and their four sons, and he has been a member of the Ducks coaching staff in various capacities since retiring from the game in 2010. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013 and earlier this year was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players of all time as part of the league's Centennial. Niedermayer's four Stanley Cups (three with New Jersey) included that 2007 playoff run in which he scored one of the most iconic goals in Ducks history (Game 5 of the Western Conference Final vs. Detroit) and was ultimately awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The 43-year-old Niedermayer took some time recently to reminisce about that '07 team and reflect on his hockey life.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when the 10-Year Celebration came around?
Niedermayer: I think the first response was, "10 years, wow. It's a big of a shock that that much time has passed since we won the Stanley Cup here in Anaheim. Obviously I have great memories of that season and that playoff run. It will be a blast to see those guys. There are quite a few I haven't seen a lot in the past 10 years. Guys are gonna pick up right where they left off as far as their personalities and how they fit into the group, and we'll just have a great time.
There have been cases made that the 2007 team is one of the best Cup teams of all time. Would you agree?
Those arguments are always fun for the fans - and the players. You look at the makeup of that team, some of the older players we had who brought a lot of that experience and different experience to the team, and then the younger group of players who brought their enthusiasm and talent and played huge roles. You have that combination of things, and obviously goaltending with Jiggy and Bryz - both of them very capable of doing the job for us. Yeah, I think that team can be put up against any other team that's won the Stanley Cup and argue that they're as good as any of them.
If we can reminisce a little bit, the goal you scored with 48 seconds left in Game 5 at Detroit that year is one of the greatest in Ducks history. What do you remember about that moment?
Those moments when you're down and time is running out, you're just kind of scrambling. You're throwing everything you have at them. It might not be pretty and it might not be by the textbook, but you're doing everything you can to try and generate a scoring chance. That's really all I was doing there was going into some open ice and putting a puck on net. I probably couldn't do that another hundred times if I tried, but that day it worked. It was pretty exciting, obviously.
Video: Scott Niedermayer ties Game 5 of the WCF in Detroit
What sticks in your memory more - that goal or actually winning that game in overtime on Teemu's goal?
I think Teemu's goal. Those are the ones that have all the glory. And what an exciting way to do it, chasing the d-man out, kind of picking his pocket and then making one of his patented quick little shots into the back of the net. Moments like that, you never know when they're gonna happen. That's one thing you learn when you're in that type of situation in these playoffs. It's a matter of just sticking with it - keep going, keep going, keep going - and then eventually something like that does happen. We got rewarded that game, and obviously that was a big win during that round for us.
Was there a certain point with that team when you knew it had a chance to win a Cup?
I think there are moments where you recognize that. You're in the dressing room and there is a feeling, there is an atmosphere in there, and you recognize that everybody is buying in. Everybody is committed to what we're trying to do here, and we're doing it real well. When that happens, you know your chances of having success are good. In the middle of those things, you never want to admit it and you never want to let your guard down. But obviously now as time's passed and looking back at it, I think most guys would agree in a sense that we had the special feeling that it takes to have success. Guys were willing to put the work in, sacrifice themselves for whatever they needed to do for the team. You can sense it, but you don't want to admit it at the time. You want it to keep going.
A signature moment in your career was handing the Cup to your brother Rob after winning it against Ottawa. Was it a conscious decision at that time to do that?
To be honest, I didn't think a whole lot about it prior to that because again, you don't want to get ahead of yourself. I've been through it, and the last thing you want to do is start making these types of plans. There is never a guarantee. So that wasn't my main focus, but after it all happened and we were Stanley Cup champions, it really seemed like the natural thing. He was one of the captains, and I didn't think anyone would have argued too loudly if I decided to hand it to him. It was a pretty unique opportunity and a special experience for us to share together like that. It's absolutely a highlight of my career.
People probably ask you to rank the four Cups you've won, but where does the one with Anaheim stand?
There was definitely a unique characteristic to it, having played against my brother [in the Final] and competing against each other four years prior with New Jersey, and then being able to play alongside him and win the Stanley Cup together was very, very special and an amazing experience for both of us. Winning the first one in 1995 was obviously a unique moment as well. They're all different, and I treasure them all, obviously. I'm very fortunate to have won four times with some great teams and a lot of great teammates. But the one here was very special, no doubt about it.
After you retired in 2010, you got involved in coaching with the organization, some at the NHL level but lately with the Ducks prospects. What has that experience been like?
It wasn't something I thought a lot about when I was playing. It was not a plan that I had when I was done, to get involved in this part of the game. But I've enjoyed it, and I've learned a lot. You think you have all the answers when you're a player, but it's a much different perspective when you're on the other side of the equation - the coaching and watching the management side do their work as well. I feel just as good about trying to help these guys have success as I did when I was a player. You do enjoy being involved and sharing that goal that they're working towards. Now in the last couple years working with some of the younger guys, helping them along in their careers, has been rewarding as well, just to see the work they've put in and hope they reach their dream of being as good a pro as they can be.
When you were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, how much did you reflect on your hockey life, growing up as a kid in BC?
I'm pretty sure I never thought that was something that was going to happen. The NHL seemed like a different world when I was a young kid, something you watched on TV. Of course, we all said we wanted to be in the NHL, and maybe that's what a dream is - simple as that. But it did seem a long ways away. And then to be fortunate enough to have the success I had in my career, I really do feel quite lucky. The teammates and organizations I was a part of - really from youth hockey to junior and into the pro level - I really was in great situations most of the time. That was a lot of reason for my success.
What does the future hold for you? Is there something you think of doing down the road? Do you want to be a head coach? Do you want to run a team?
They cross through my mind in the last five or six years that I've been around it, learning about it. There are probably some things that would push me away from doing it that I've learned. [Laughs] But at the same time, just talking about the excitement of being part of a team trying to reach a goal is something I'm used to and enjoy. I'm busy helping coach a lot of my boys' hockey teams. It's not an easy job either, and people put a lot of time and resources into it now. But it's fun and it brings back lots of memories of growing up - making good friends and having fun playing, running around hotels and that sort of thing. Even though my beard is quite gray [laughs], I'm not too old yet for other options, so there is still time. So I'm in no rush for those types of things, but the possibilities down the road are there for sure.