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Scott Niedermayer retires after brilliant career

by John McGourty
There's a reason that Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer is the only hockey player in the world to win the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, the World Championship, World Junior Championship, the World Cup and the Memorial Cup.

Niedermayer, 36, who retired Tuesday after 18 NHL seasons, was simply one of the best defensemen in the history of the game and certainly one of hockey's all-time best skaters. Schooled in the tight defensive style of the New Jersey Devils, Niedermayer was transformed from one of the best offensive defensemen in Canadian junior-hockey history into one of the NHL's top shutdown players.

Niedermayer also was selected as the 2004 Norris Trophy winner as the best all-around defenseman in the NHL. He also was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he led the Ducks to the championship. Niedermayer captained the Ducks in his final four seasons.

"I could not have dreamed of such an amazing journey," Niedermayer said at a press conference with Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray. "... I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me this is going to be your career. I've been very lucky."

Niedermayer said he could never have won those titles without the help and support of great players and coaches, but there's no doubt those coaches and players would say the same thing about playing with Niedermayer, a consummate professional and elite player.

"Scott was a tremendous addition, an asset to our defensive corps and he quickly showed the dynamic skating ability that he had," former Devils defenseman Bruce Driver. "I watched him grow as a hockey player. A lot of people point to the huge goal he scored against Detroit when we won in 1995, when he went end-to-end. People compared it to a Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey rush. It opened a lot of eyes to the ability and speed that he had.

"He skated so smoothly that sometimes it looked like he wasn't working hard, but that's experience and that fluid stride he had. He could go from first to fifth gear in a hurry. There weren't a lot of us who could skate the way he could.

"A lot of people thought early on that he was just an offensive defenseman," Driver continued. "I got to appreciate as I watched him grow how smart he is and how good a defensive defenseman he was. Part of that was God-given ability and part was ability to move laterally so quickly. His Devils teammates and coaches taught him well. He played with Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, tremendous defensive defensemen, and he had Larry Robinson as a head coach and an assistant. What he didn't learn himself, they taught him."

Niedermayer's combination of foot speed, balance and anticipation made him one of the most effective shutdown defenders of all time. Niedermayer was also an important offensive force for the Devils and Ducks, his only NHL teams. Niedermayer had 172 goals and 568 assists for 740 points in 1,263 games, or 0.59 points per game. More than half his goals, 90, were scored on power plays and he had one shorthanded goal. Nearly a quarter of his goals, 39, were game winners.

He had 25 goals and 73 assists for 98 points in 202 Stanley Cup Playoff games, or 0.49 points per game. Niedermayer had 12 power-play goals, three shorthanded goals and eight game winners in Stanley Cup Playoff games. He was plus-167 during NHL regular seasons and plus-20 in Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Niedermayer tied Jamie Langenbrunner for the Devils' scoring lead in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 18 points, including a team-high 16 assists.

Niedermayer won three Stanley Cups with the Devils in 1995, 2000 and 2004. He signed as a free agent with the Ducks in 2005 and helped lead them

to the 2007 Stanley Cup. He led the Devils to an historic 1994 Eastern Conference Championship series against the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the New York Rangers. He was also a strong defensive presence against the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 when the Devils' again went to the Stanley Cup Final. He tied for Anaheim's third-leading scorer in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Ducks were defeated in the Western Conference Final by the Edmonton Oilers.

Born in Edmonton, Niedermayer was raised in Cranbrook, B.C., and led the Cranbrook AAA Midgets with 55 goals and 92 points in 1989. He had 14 goals and 69 points as a rookie with the 1989-90 Kamloops Blazers to help them into the Memorial Cup. He had 26 goals and 82 points the following year and helped Canada win the World Junior Championship, leading the Devils to select him with the No. 3 pick in the 1991 Entry Draft.

The Devils gave Niedermayer a four-game trial at the start of the 1991-92 season and then sent him back to Kamloops for more seasoning. They were thrilled when Niedermayer led Kamloops to the 1992 Memorial Cup title.

With Niedermayer in their lineup, the Devils missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs only once, in 1996, the year after they won and even then they were eliminated on the final day of the season. The Ducks had missed the playoffs in four of the five seasons prior to signing Niedermayer. This season was the only time they failed to make the playoffs in his five seasons in Anaheim.

Niedermayer was an Olympic gold-medal winner for Team Canada in 2002 and 2010 and played on Canada's championship team in the 2004 World Cup. He was a member of Canada's 2004 World Championship team.

Niedermayer said the three biggest highlights of his career were winning his first Stanley Cup; winning again in 2007 with his brother, Rob, as a teammate and winning the 2010 Olympic gold medal with Team Canada on Canadian soil.

"I'm humbled to have this number of things to pick from," Niedermayer said. "I've been surrounded by a lot of great people."

Murray said Niedermayer's press conference was indicative of what kind of person he is. Niedermayer went back years thanking teammates, coaches and executives, but took much longer to go through a lengthy list of front-office workers, trainers, publicists, fans and the media. He named every Devils coach as well as Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. He also named every member of the Devils defensive corps when he broke in -- Driver, Stevens, Daneyko, Slava Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov and Tommy Albelin. He thanked Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli and former Devils owner, the late John McMullen and his family.

"I could not have dreamed of such an amazing journey.  I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me this is going to be your career. I've been very lucky." -- Scott Niedermayer
Niedermayer went through his retirement conference with the same skill and fluidity he showed on the ice until he got to thanking his children, Logan, Jackson, Josh and Luke, and his wife, Lisa.

"I owe a big thank you to my family," he said. "Having you in my life is what made it possible to do my job. ... I want to mention my brother Rob, who is a great friend and has always been very supportive. We did everything together so getting the chance to play together here in Anaheim and winning the Stanley Cup together was amazing."

Murray said Niedermayer has agreed to remain with the Ducks as a consultant.

"You can never have enough winners around," Murray said.

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