Skip to main content

Kraig Nienhuis

Some people want to be hockey players. Others want to be rock stars.

Kraig Nienhuis got to be both.

Mind you, he was a classic late bloomer who overcame unlikely long odds in both cases, too.

After attending Renessalaer Polytechnical Institute from 1982 through 1985 when they won the NCAA championship, the undrafted Nienhuis emerged as an intriguing NHL prospect, sought after from as many as eleven teams. He could skate and relished the physical game. For what he may have lacked in creativity in his game he made up for in effort. He had pro checker written all over him.

"In five years I went from house-league hockey to the NHL," Nienhuis said. "It's a pretty incredible story."

"I didn't start to take hockey seriously until I was 18," he told The Hockey News back in 1985. "I played mostly semi-pro soccer and football until I was 18."

"Neener," as known to his friends, had played a lot of pond hockey to that point but his organized hockey experience was mostly with a church recreational league. Yet he played hard and was able to walk on to a season of junior B hockey with the Sarnia Bees. That earned him a scholarship offer to RPI.

RPI coach Mike Addesa had the biggest impact on Nienhuis' game.

"I really didn't have any type of style until I got into college," he said. "Then Mike kind of said 'With your physical attributes and your skating ability, you really don't have the finesse or the hands, so we'll make you a checker. That was stamped on my forehead when I came to the pros."

And check he did. But a funny thing happened in his first season with the Bruins. He scored 16 goals and 30 points in that rookie campaign. He said the game just seemed easier at that level, believe it or not.

"It just comes down to a lot more freedom on the ice in the pros, the ability to ad lib. You can innovate a little bit more out there in the pros," Nienhuis said, somewhat surprisingly.

"In college I was so restricted that it seemed like I was bound by chains all the time. In the pros, there's been no chains at all. It's just free wheeling."

"In college everybody just skates a hundred miles an hour the whole time. Everybody's just flying all over. I pros, it's much more slowed down, much more a thinking game."

Ah but that changed the next season, perhaps because of coaching instability as Butch Goring was released. Nienhuis and his ad lib game were demoted to the minor leagues after just 16 games. He would return for only one more NHL game ever in his career.

By 1988 Nienhuis left the North American game but found great enjoyment in playing the game overseas. He would play in Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Great Britain and Italy up until 1999.

Kraig Nienhuis certainly did not have the stereotypical after-hockey career that many fringe NHLer have. No he did not sell real estate or work for a brewery.

Instead he front a rock band named 9 House and opened concerts for the likes of ZZ Top, Nickelback, David Lee Roth and the Beach Boys.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M