It’s been a day but the feeling of being a Hall of Fame hockey player for Cranbrook native Scott Niedermayer is still sinking in.
The retired NHL defenceman is currently on vacation in Vancouver Island when he got the call on Tuesday, where he was informed that he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.
“It’s kind of hard to believe when you do get a call like that, knowing who’s in the Hall of Fame, even looking at this year’s inductees as well, some obviously pretty darned good hockey players and people that have been real good for the game of hockey,” said Niedermayer, in a phone interview on Wednesday. “To be put in the same breath as those kinds of people is pretty amazing.”
Joining Niedermayer in Tuesday’s announcement by the Hockey Hall of Fame was defenceman Chris Chelios and power forward Brendan Shanahan, along with Team Canada rearguard Geraldine Heaney and coach Fred Shero.
Both Chelios and Shanahan have remained with the NHL in different roles; Chelios is an executive advisor to Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, while Shanahan has the high-profile role of being the league’s disciplinarian.
Niedermayer, who won an Olympic gold medal with Shanahan as a teammate in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, heaped praise on his fellow inductees.
Both [Shanahan and Chelios] were real tough to play against,” said Niedermayer. “Obviously both had a lot of skill, but neither of them minded the physical part of the game and using that to gain an advantage.
“….Definitely looked up to those guys as a couple of the best players in the league when I was playing and to go into the Hall with a group like that, as well as Geraldine, a great hockey player in her own right, and the late Fred Shero—a pretty neat group of people.”
Looking through Niedermayer’s 18-year career in professional hockey with the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks, one will notice a player who has won pretty much everything there is to win at every level. The Cranbrook product has earned four Stanley Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals, a World Championship, a World Cup, a World Junior Championship, and a Memorial Cup.
He won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as NHL Defenceman of the Year in 2004 and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2007 when he captured his final Stanley Cup alongside his brother, Rob, with the Anaheim Ducks.
“That in itself is crazy, just how fortunate I’ve been and part of teams that had success and being part of those groups, I was pretty lucky,” said Niedermayer.
“…I’ve had a pretty fortunate ride, and that’s probably why I ended up getting the call yesterday [Tuesday] morning, because I was a part of those groups, I benefited from teammates and coaches and managers and all those teams.”
The two brothers began playing hockey in the Cranbrook minor system which eventually blossomed into impressive major-junior and professional careers.
“It really started right from the time I laced up my skates in Cranbrook, benefitting from, obviously, my mom and dad and the sacrifices and time and effort that they put in to my brother and I,” said Niedermayer, “driving us around, hotels and tournaments and all those things that parents do and I’m sort of on the other end of that now with my own kids, learning what that’s all about.”
Scott went to the Kamloops Blazers in 1989 and stayed there for three years, tallying 190 points over 156 regular season games, before moving up to the NHL. Rob went east to Medicine Hat, joining the Tigers in 1990 and enjoying three campaigns with the club before following his brother to the pros.
Niedermayer was drafted third overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, while Rob went fifth overall to the Florida Panthers two years later.
Niedermayer retired from hockey in 2010, but remained with the Ducks as a consultant to general manager Bob Murray. Last January, Niedermayer shifted to an assistant coaching role, watching games from above rather than behind the bench.
“It’s going good, they’ve been very accommodating in allowing me to take it at my own pace,” said Niedermayer. “The first two years, I was very much part time, watching some games and doing some development work and this last year—a shortened year obviously with the lockout—I was doing some coaching at home, I didn’t have to travel, I did go on one or two little short trips.
“I enjoyed that as well and I’m probably going to do that again, and I don’t have any big plans or long-term goals with that. I’m enjoying what I’m doing that now and I’ll give it another shot next year.”