June 28, 2011
Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk
I can think of three words that all being with the letter C that best describe Joe Nieuwendyk: Classy. Clutch. Champion.
Joe Nieuwendyk was a winner. He won three Stanley Cup championships with three different teams - Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey. Plus he won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2002.
In 1999 he was so important to Dallas' Stanley Cup championship that he was named as the Conn Smythe trophy winner - about as prestigious of an individual award a hockey player can earn.
That was not his only major award either. In 1988 he won the Calder trophy as best NHL rookie, and in 1995 he won the King Clancy award for his leadership on and off the ice.
Statistically speaking his numbers are also worthy. 564 goals and 1126 points in 1257 games once upon a time guaranteed a player inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Nowadays a new standard is trying to be established, given the much higher scoring era of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Knowledgeable hockey fans know that Nieuwendyk was one of those guys who brought more to the rink than any statistic can quantify. That might seem odd to say given Nieuwy spent much of his career primarily as a top marksman, but he was a complete player. Aside from chronic back injuries, he had no real weakness in his game. And he brought a lot to the organization off the ice, both in terms of dressing room leadership and community involvement.