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Niedermayers savor past, but live in the moment

by Eric Stephens / NHL.com
One brother has sat out just one postseason over his entire 17-year career and lifted the Stanley Cup over his head four times. The other has played in the playoffs three years running, appeared in the Final three times and took the shiny silver chalice from his older sibling's hands just two years ago.

Both of them have a future with the Anaheim Ducks that's as hazy as a June afternoon in Southern California. But did you really think there would be another chance at hoisting Lord Stanley's gift to ice hockey without the Niedermayer boys involved?

Four years together, four years with at least a shot and one when they made that shot count. A franchise, once adored by movie-going youngsters and mocked by purists for its cartoonish logo, forever changed.

"I can't really sit here and do it justice by putting it into words," said Rob Niedermayer, the unsung checking forward and the little brother to the luminous Scott by 16 months. "That was my childhood dream, to win a Stanley Cup. To have your brother, as the captain, pass it to you ... that says it all right there. That was everything you dream about and it was coming true.

"So many emotions are going through you. It was as special as it gets."

The two have another chance to duplicate that moment, beginning Thursday in San Jose with Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the top-seeded Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). Another chance to battle through a postseason, side by side, seeing how far the journey takes them.

And that may be it. The original four-year contracts they agreed to on the same day in 2005 expire on July 1. Having danced with retirement just last season, Scott Niedermayer has yet to commit to playing at all beyond these playoffs. It remains to be seen if Rob fits in the Ducks' plans for 2009-10.

The two realize that four years of carpooling to Honda Center, of sharing much more time together inside the dressing room as teammates and outside it as family members, could soon come to an end.

"You know what, I think both of us just sort of appreciate right now," Rob said. "We're sort of going year to year. I mean, I thought it might come to an end after we won because he had some second thoughts about coming back.

"So yeah, we just sort of go year to year. That's how we'll take it. We'll just look at it, go into the summer and see where we're at."

The story is well-known by now, Scott and Rob seriously contemplating the idea of playing on the same side for the first time since childhood after winning a gold medal for Canada at the 2004 World Championships. Both were often far apart with Scott spending 13 seasons with New Jersey, where he won three Cups with the Devils and Rob playing 11 years in Florida, Calgary and then Anaheim.

It wasn't that case when they were kids in Cranbrook, British Columbia, ultimately playing for the bantam-level Eagles until the elder Niedermayer, at 16, went off to Kamloops of the Western Hockey League

"We had a pretty big break there where we didn't see much of each other on the ice for a number of years," Scott said. "To get back in the latter half of our careers and be able to share it again has been fun.

"And then away from the rink with our families starting, getting to know his daughter and his wife better and reverse, it's been great for all of us. When you're in two different towns and going 100 miles an hour in the summers, you start to take different directions especially with families. It's been a great chance for our families to get to know each other."

Already a key contributor of the then-Mighty Ducks' miracle run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003 against the Devils, Rob Niedermayer remembered when Scott weighed a substantial contract offer to re-sign with New Jersey before following his heart.

"He was sort of taking his time," Rob said. "I remember he said he was going on a long trip with his wife (Lisa) and his family and would come back and make a decision. Yeah, I was pretty excited. I knew he was going to make the decision that was best for his family.

"When he said he was coming here, yeah, I was very excited. I think that [previous] summer we played together at the World Championships, it sort of gave me an inkling. You knew it was special. To have that and then know that he's going to come here and we're going to play together for four years ... it's hard to even say it in words."

Anaheim made the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman a lucrative offer, $27 million over four years, after locking in Rob for four years and $8 million. New Jersey, however, was willing to give Scott the maximum amount at the time – five years and $38 million or $7.9 million a season.

 
More money wasn't what Scott was looking for.

"He left a lot of money on the table," Rob recalled. "But he's never been a guy about that. He's always been a guy about his family and what was best for them."

If they weren't playing together, Rob and Scott were trying to see who was better on the pond when the lake would freeze over for the winter. Mostly, it was Rob trying to do whatever he could to goad the mild-mannered Scott out of character.

Not much has changed. Rob is still the one with the quick wit while Scott is usually quiet and serious.

"He used to get under my skin pretty regularly as kids," Scott said, with a smile. "Maybe he hasn't lost that. That's the younger brother's job, I guess. It's a required skill."

Said Rob: "Oh yeah, I wanted to push his buttons a little bit. It's always fun to see if you can do that."

Now they are each other's advocate.

"Growing up as kids, we had certain situations where we were competitive and having our fights and scraps as young kids," Scott said. "And then as we got older and matured, we've become each other's biggest fans and what not. It made it a lot easier to play together and compete together."

Said Rob: "It's great to have a brother that's a Norris Trophy winner and has won everything. He's never someone where...he's always wanted the best for me and I've always wanted the best for him. That's never even been an issue."

Rob said he knew the moment Scott decided on Anaheim, it would transform the franchise. In the last four years with both Niedermayers, the Ducks will play in their club-record fourth consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs and participate in their ninth playoff series.

Although there is speculation that Scott may play another year and then for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2007 Conn Smythe Trophy winner hasn't tipped his hand.

"He's been a winner everywhere he's gone. What others words do you want to use? There's no sense complicating things with Scott Niedermayer. He's a winner. End of story."
-- Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray

"He's been a winner everywhere he's gone," Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray said. "What others words do you want to use? There's no sense complicating things with Scott Niedermayer. He's a winner. End of story."

When asked if he has contemplated a future with his stud blueliner, Murray said, "Yes. There's no other answer. Yeah, I have contemplated that. It's not a very nice thought. But it's going to happen. If not next year, if not the year after."

The elder Niedermayer is simply savoring the moments, however many there are left.

"It's been great being able to do this for four years together," Scott said. "If it happens again, I think we would enjoy it. I'd do it for sure. But at the same time, everybody's in a different situation.

"Both of us can control what we want to do. What the team wants to do, obviously that's important, their decisions as well. So we understand all of that.

"Whatever happens, happens."
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