April 10, 2018

Hockey's Winningest Man: Scott Niedermayer

The key component for two Canadian Olympic gold medals seems to be hockey's winningest man: Scott Niedermayer.

Niedermayer captained Team Canada to gold in 2010, and was a top player on their previous gold medal championship in 2002. Niedermayer was inexplicably left off of the 1998 team, and was injured in 2006. Canada did not step on the podium without him.

He was instrumental in Canada's 2010 success, playing his best when his team needed him the most. The veteran was a calming influence and arguably the team's best defenseman in the gold medal game.

Niedermayer does not always get properly credited as one of the all time great blue liners. He has always been recognized as a great skill player, but not necessarily revered as a legend.

That is partially because his quiet, laid back persona off the ice. But on the ice he is a true champion. In addition to the two Olympic gold medals, Niedermayer has also won the Memorial Cup, World Junior and World Championships, a World Cup and four Stanley Cups. All he does is win.

To me, that makes him one of the greatest hockey legends.

The pride of Cranbrook, BC, Niedermayer first became a notable hockey name when he joined the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL and helped them win a Memorial Cup championship in 1992 and help Canada to world junior championships in 1991 and 1992. 

Scouts raved about Niedermayer, especially his effortless, almost artistic skating. It was truly a treat to watch him skate, which is not something you normally say about players. He was the definition of skating agility.  Scouts also liked his offensive instincts. Comparisons to Paul Coffey were inevitable.

The New  Jersey Devils selected Niedermayer with the third overall pick (acquired infamously several months before from Toronto in exchange for Tom Kurvers), directly behind Eric Lindros and Pat Falloon. Alright, no one was going to dislodge Lindros from the top spot that year, but in hindsight who would you rather have? And what was San Jose thinking?!

In the Devils tight, defense first system Niedermayer never really did emerge as a Coffey-like offensive force. Instead he became a great, well rounded defender. He still carried the puck often and occasionally using his wheels for a highlight reel rush.

Niedermayer was somewhat overshadowed in New Jersey by team captain Scott Stevens. Stevens defined New Jersey hockey with his hard hitting, defensive focus. Niedermayer's skill set may have offered the  Devils a nice change up, but he was also a flawless defender and an unnoticed physical player in his own fashion.

All in all Scott Niedermayer was part of 3  Stanley Cup championships in New Jersey. But he left the Devils after the 2005 lockout, heading west to join his brother Rob with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He would play 5 seasons in California, posting some of his best offensive seasons thanks to the shackles finally being lifted from his game.

The highlight in Anaheim - and possibly of his whole storied  career - was winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. It may have been the 4th Stanley Cup of his career, but it was brother Rob's first. To win it together with his brother was real special. 

Niedermayer retired in 2010 with one of the most impressive resumes ever completed in hockey. 1263 regular season games; 172 goals, 568 assists for 740 points. Another 25 goals and 98 points in 202 Stanley Cup games. Four times he was named as a year end All Star. He also won a Norris trophy and Conn Smythe trophy. Two Olympic gold medals, the Memorial Cup, World Junior and World Championships, a World Cup and four Stanley Cups. 

Words that describe Scott  Niedermayer - winner; Hall of Famer; greatest hockey legend.

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