The recent retirement of Joe Nieuwendyk leaves a void not only in the Panthers' roster but in the entire hockey world. Few players have played the game as well and handled themselves with as much class as Joe. From his rookie year in Calgary through his final playing days in Florida, Joe epitomized what a professional hockey player should be. To me, he is a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. Just look at his resume:
3 Stanley Cups (Cgy- 89, Dall- 99, NJ- 03)
Calder Trophy - 89 (rookie of the Year)
Conn Smythe- 99 (playoff Most Valuable Player)
Olympic Gold- 02 (Team Canada- Salt Lake City)
But Joe is just one of several potential future Hall of Famers that have left the game since the end of the 2003-04 NHL season. On a recent FSN Florida telecast from Buffalo, our crack production team led by producer Mitch Rubenstein put together a great graphic with headshots of the following players that have left the game since the season that preceded the lockout (2003-04):
Mario Lemieux (Hall of Fame '97), Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al McInnis, Adam Oates, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Dave Andreychuk, Scott Stevens, and Joe Nieuwendyk. WOW....what a list! Let's just tally up the goals, assists, Cups and some of the individual trophies that left the NHL with this group of ten players:
Stanley Cups 23
Calder (Rookie of Year) 2
Hart (MVP) 6
Art Ross (Leading Scorer) 6
Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP) 6
Pearson (Players Assoc. Top Player) 7
Norris (Top Defenseman) 1
Selke (Top Defensive Forward) 2
We are going to miss these great players and what they brought to the game. The good news is that the NHL has as good a crop of young players as we've seen in a long time. Names like Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Phaneuf, Kovalvhuk, Bergeron, Staal, Nash, Heatley plus Florida's young corps of Horton, Weiss, Bouwmeester and Olesz will keep the next generation of NHL fans thrilled for many years.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the very best this holiday season....Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah....and a Happy New Year!
Thanks...and don't forget to tune into Florida Panthers hockey on FSN Florida!