Even early in his career, it was obvious Scott Niedermayer was a special player. From a Memorial Cup to a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals, Niedermayer dominated everywhere he played in his 21-year career.
Born on August 31, 1973 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada he started his hockey journey on his local midget team in Cranbrook, British Columbia. His mother enrolled he and his brother Rob in figure skating classes to help their development. During his midget season, he scored 55 goals and 92 points.
He made his junior debut during the 1989-90 season with the Kamloops Blazers. In his first season he helped lead the Blazers to the President’s Cup as the WHL’s top team. The Blazers made it the 1990 Memorial Cup, but were swept in three games.
In 1990-91 He scored 82 points in 57 games and earning the Daryl K. Seaman Trophy as the WHL’s top player as well as being named the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year.
That summer he was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the 1991 NHL Draft third overall in the first round. He made the Devils roster out of camp heading into the 1991-92 season, but didn’t play in any of the teams first five games of the season. He appeared in four games for the Devils before being sent back to juniors for the rest of the season.
Niedermayer made his international debut at the 1991 World Junior Championships representing Team Canada. He played in three games as Canada beat the Soviets to win Gold. He was again selected to represent Team Canada the following year, but Canada finished sixth in the eight team tournament.
Niedermayer played in 35 games for the Blazers, helping them back into the playoffs and eventually leading them to their second WHL championship in three years. The Blazers won the 1992 Memorial Cup thanks in part to Niedermayer’s seven points in five games.
He made the Devils roster out of camp again in 1992-93 and this time was here to stay. He scored his first NHL goal on November 8, 1992. He scored 11 goals and 40 points and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. The Devils make the playoffs but were beat in five games by the Penguins.
Niedermayer continued to improve during the 1993-94 season. He scored 10 goals and 48 points. He formed a duo with teammate Scott Stevens on the blueline to help the Devils finish second in the Atlantic division. The Devils beat the Sabres and Bruins in the playoffs but lost in seven games to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. Niedermayer contributed two goals and two assists in 20 playoff games.
The lockout cut the 1994-95 season to just 48 games. Niedermayer’s offensive production slipped to just four goals and 19 points while playing in all 48 games. The Devils roster was stacked headling into the playoffs, and dispatched the Bruins and Peguins in five games in the first two rounds. They took six games to beat the Flyers in the Conference Final, then swept the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final to earn their first Cup in franchise history. Niedermayer scored 11 points in the Devils 20 playoff games, winning his first of four Stanley Cups.
The 1995-96 season did not go as the Devils planned, as they became the first team since the 1969-70 Canadiens to win the Cup then miss the playoffs the following season. A losing streak in December as well as a lackluster March pushed them out of the very competitive Atlantic Division. Niedermayer scored 33 points which was good enough for fourth place on the team.
Niedermayer made his senior international debut at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey, and despite recording four points, Canada lost to the United States in the Final.
Niedermayer put up similar points during the 1996-97 season when he scored 35. The Devils were had a lackluster summer, not wanting to spend big money on free agents Wayne Gretzky, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau or re-signing defenseman Phil Housley, the team failed to make any big additions. There were rumors that the Devils were considering trading Niedermayer to the Coyotes to try to bring in Roenick, but Lou Lamoriello didn’t want to pay what he wanted as a restricted-free agent.
1997-98 saw Niedermayer post his best season in New Jersey as the Devils as a whole returned to the top of the Eastern Conference. Niedermayer scored 14 goals and 57 points which was enough for second in defenseman scoring in the league, only behind Nicklas Lidstrom. The Devils made the playoffs but were upset in six games by the Senators in the opening round.
In the summer of 1998 Niedermayer would enter a contract dispute with the Devils, who refused to pay him the raise he was looking for. He rejected the Devils offer and didn’t have a contract going into the 1998-99 season and a holdout began. The dispute drug out into the season and in turn Niedermayer signed with the Utah Grizzlies of the International Hockey League for the first month of the season. In November he finally agreed to a contract extension with New Jersey. Niedermayer still dressed for 72 NHL games scoring 11 goals and 46 points. New Jersey once again finished at the top of the Eastern Conference but lost in seven games to the Penguins in the opening round.
The 1999-00 season was one of ebb and flows for Scott Niedermayer. He and the Devils were once again a force to be reckoned with during the majority of the regular season until early February when they suffered a 3-6-1-1 stretch which cost them the Atlantic Division title which was won by the Flyers. Toward the end of the season, Niedermayer was involved in an incident when he swung his stick at the head of Florida Panthers forward Peter Worrell, concussing him. he was suspended 10 games for the attack which cost him nine games of the regular season and one playoff game. He returned and helped the Devils playoff push. they swept the Panthers in the first round, downed the Leafs in six games in the second round, and got past the Flyers in seven games during the Eastern Conference Final. The Devils won their second Stanley Cup in five years on double overtime goal in game six against the Stars.
Niedermayer would once again holdout over a contract dispute during the 2000-01. He was looking for a deal above $5 million, similar to that of other top defenseman in the league but the Devils wanted to pay him around $3.5 million. He sat out the first two months of the season. After sitting out 25 games, he agreed on a four-year $16 million contract. He rejoined the lineup and the Devils became almost unstoppable. New Jersey won 13-straight games from late February to late March and finished the season with a 19-2 streak. The Devils once again won the Eastern Conference and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but lost to the Avalanche in seven games. Niedermayer still managed to score 35 points in 57 regular season games as well as six assists in the Devils 21 playoff games.
The Devils struggled in 2001-02 and eventually fired head coach Larry Robinson in late January and replaced him with Kevin Constantine. Niedermayer missed the opening of the season dealing with back issues, which hurt his overall play for much of the season. A late season 11-3 record pushed the Devils into the playoffs, but they were easily dispatched by the Hurricanes in six games. Niedermayer finished with only 33 points, his lowest total since the 1995-96 season.
Niedermayer was named to his first Olympic appearance at the 2002 Winter Olympics and he helped Team Canada win their first gold medal at hockey in 50 years.
The Devils returned to their former glory in 2002-03 as the won the Atlantic Division again. Niedermayer’s point totals increased a little, climbing to 39 points. The Devils defense was so stacked at the time that Niedermayer failed to shine through the other stars around him. However, Niedermayer looked like his old self during the playoffs, tying Jamie Langenbrunner for the team lead in points with 18. The Devils won their third Stanley Cup in seven years as they beat the Mighty Ducks in seven games. This was an emotional series for Scott, as his brother Rob played for the Ducks at the time.
Niedermayer carried a huge load during the 2003-04 season as fellow defenseman Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski missed time with injury. He rose to the occasion as the team’s top D-man, regularly seeing 25-plus minutes a night. His offensive touch returned as he scored 14 goals and 54 points, which was third on the team in scoring. He was temporarily named captain during Stevens absence. He was named an all-star for the third time and won the only Norris Trophy of his career. The Devils struggled late in the season and just barely made the playoffs before being eliminated in the first round by the Flyers.
The summer of 2004 brought yet another contract dispute with the Devils which ended up in arbitration. He was awarded a one year, $7 million contract, tying the highest arbitration decision at the time. The contract ended up being voided as the lockout ruined the 2004-05 season.
When the lockout ended in the summer of 2005 Niedermayer was an unrestricted free agent and was in high demand. The Devils offered him a max-deal of five years, $39 million dollars. Niedermayer opted instead for a four-year, $27 million deal with the Mighty Ducks where his brother Rob played.
Scott Niedermayer was named captain of the Ducks upon his arrival, replacing Steve Rucchin who was traded to the Rangers over the summer. He posted a new career high in points with 63. The Mighty Ducks had a great season, finishing with a 43-27-12 record and made the playoffs. The Mighty Ducks beat the Flames in seven games, then swept the Avalanche in the second round, but they lost to the Oilers in five games during the Western Conference Final. Niedermayer scored two goals and 11 points in the Mighty Ducks’ 16 games.
Tasting the Western Conference Final the previous season, the newly named Anaheim Ducks made a huge splash by acquiring Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers. Pronger joined Niedermayer, Sean O’Donnell, and Francois Beauchemin to form one of the best defense cores in recent memory.
The Ducks were a dominant team in 2006-07, thanks in part to the deadly duo of Pronger and Niedermayer. Scott posted new career highs in goals (15) and points (69) and, along with Pronger were named finalists for the Norris Trophy, though losing to Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom. The Ducks continued their domination into the playoffs, beating the Wild and Canucks in five games during the first two rounds. They dispatched the Red Wings in six games during the Western Conference Final before beating the Senators in five games to win the organization’s first Stanley Cup. Niedermayer won the fourth and final Cup of his career as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. He accomplished another dream as well, winning the Stanley Cup with his brother who he handed the Cup to first.
Now 34 years old, Niedermayer contemplated retirement during the summer of 2007. Undecided at the start of the 2007-08 season, he sat out and was suspended by the team. He was stripped of the captaincy as the Ducks gave the title to Chris Pronger. In early December, he decided to return to the Ducks. He played in 48 games scoring 25 points. The Ducks were eliminated by the Stars in six games, which again made Niedermayer consider retirement during the summer of 2008.
Niedermayer decided to return for the 2008-09 season and was re-named captain at the start of the season. The ageless wonder put up another phenomenal season, scoring 14 goals and 59 points, earning his fifth all-star appearance. The Ducks made the playoffs, but struggled to gain any ground. They made it passed the Sharks in six games in the opening round, but lost to the Red Wings in seven games in the second round. Niedermayer recorded 10 points in 13 playoff games.
Niedermayer returned for what would be his last NHL season in 2009-10. Even at 37, his point totals didn’t decrease too much as he finished the season with 48 points in 80 games. The Ducks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and on June 22, 2010 Scott Niedermayer announced his retirement from hockey.
Four months before he announced his retirement, he joined Team Canada one last time at the 2010 Winter Olympics and was named captain. Canada would go on to win Gold in an overtime victory over the United States.
Scott Niedermayer was honored by all of his teams since his retirement as the Devils retired his number in 2011, Kamloops Blazers retired his number in 2013, and the Ducks retired his number in February of 2019.
Niedermayer remained with the Ducks organization as a special advisor to general manager Bob Murray. In 2012 he joined the Ducks coaching staff as a special assignment coach. Niedermayer was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the 2013 class on November 11, 2003.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: sportsnet.ca