Scott Niedermayer was cheerful after the brief video retrospective that opened his retirement press conference. He even joked about changing his mind on the way into the room. Ultimately, though, he grew tearful as he thanked his long list of supporters, from the two NHL organizations he played with all the way back to his Juniors team. He had to collect himself as he thanked his family.
Perhaps the most decorated hockey player ever, Niedermayer looked toward the future, which Anaheim GM Bob Murray said would involve a consultant job with the Ducks. Murray also offered his recollection of what it took to bring the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman to Anaheim and what Niedermayer brought to the Ducks in his time with the team.
That is the starting point for Anaheim Calling's farewell to the last Mighty Ducks captain, the first Anaheim Ducks captain. A career has never so soundly spoken for itself, such that any retrospective would feel like a two hour Power Point lecture on arithmetic. So, instead, we'll simply offer our recollections of the man, as so many around the league have done. Don't forget to check out Earl Sleek's farewell post. Our farewells are after the jump.
I cried. I didn’t think I would, but the minute the highlight reel started to roll, the tears welled up in my eyes. It hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would. Yes, I know he’s not dead, but it kinda feels that way. I can’t picture the ice without him. How can Scotty NOT be on the ice? I’ve been a Ducks fan for a long time. Granted, Scotty was only with us for five years, but really, I can’t remember (Mighty) Ducks hockey before him.
My first real introduction to Scotty was the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I remember ESPN (yep, they showed hockey then!) interviewing Mama Niedermayer about her boys facing off for The Cup, and her saying that she’d like Robby to win because Scotty had already won two Cups. Obviously, that didn’t happen. In that final game of the series, I cried, but this time, as Scotty was skating The Cup around the New Jersey rink. I must admit, I kind of hated him. Once he finally became a Mighty Duck, I understood what the fuss was all about. I remember thinking to myself, "Damn. He’s good. Thank God he’s on MY team now."
Looking back on Scotty’s career from a rabid fan perspective makes me appreciate the guy even more. Not just for his play on the ice, but the way he interacted with the fans. The guy was the consummate professional. This past Casino Night, when the event was rolling to a close and most of the big name players-- I’m looking at you Getzlaf, Perry, and Ryan --bolted early, he was still there. After he took a picture with me, and as I was walking away, I overheard him saying to a Ducks staffer, "No, I’m not ready to go yet. There are still folks here." As I walked out, a fan asked if I was HIS WIFE after we took the picture because they didn’t think he’d stick around for pictures with just anyone. I wanted to lie and say yes, but I didn’t. I simply said, "No. That’s just who Scotty is." There may not be another player like him, but I’m still sure as hell happy he was on MY team. Thanks Scotty, for everything.
Any goodbye to Scotty needs to begin with one phrase: thank you. I have said that Paul Kariya put Anaheim hockey on the map. If that's the case, then Scott Niedermayer gave it credibility. We had more success during his captaincy than some franchises have ever had. I will always remember that Stanley Cup run that ended with Arthur and I jumping up and down and pointing at the television, as well as Scotty's goal that made it possible.
Scott, you were a winner, and you taught this franchise how to pursue excellence. Ducks fans of all walks appreciate the effort you put into our franchise. There is no replacement for you, and you will be sorely missed. I hope retirement is good to you, sir. You've more than earned it.
Although I've only seen arguably Scotty's worst days as a Duck, he was still by far the best man on the blue line over the past season and a half. While I don't have the memories that most do of Scotty's legendary moments (I hear he scored a somewhat important goal against the Red Wings a few years ago), I do have one Niedermayer memory that will stay with me forever. Scotty scored that game-winner during a 3-on-3 overtime period against the Calgary Flames on February 11th 2009, which is also known as the first NHL game I ever attended. After that game (and Scotty's beautiful winner), I was hooked and haven't looked back since.
Scott, thanks for everything you've done for this franchise. While I probably can't appreciate your on-ice contributions as much as others, I do appreciate the fact that you were a key cog in winning the Cup during that storybook year. You've been a great leader for the team (on and off the ice), and it will truly be odd to see the Anaheim Ducks without you. Good luck in your new capacity, and if you ever do decide to pull a 2007-2008, I'm sure the blueline would welcome you with open arms.
It's weird, but he's still a Devil to me. Don't get me wrong. I cherished every gamewinner, every textbook check, his nomad act on the power play, slowly pushing people out of scrums with his deadpan expression looking down, and that stride, my god the stride. But when I saw this Niedermayer, it only reminded me of this Niedermayer:
I guess I felt I'd seen it all from him. And there's something to be said for that, for someone who didn't have phases in his career, who didn't learn to 'play the angles' when he lost his speed or 'live off of his reputation' once he signed that lucrative contract. Niedermayer was always Niedermayer, seemingly capable of anything and downright dangerous if you ever forgot it. He had that air of quiet confidence, exemplified by the 27 (Bobby Orr's first number in Boston) on his back, and the tools to back it up.
Captain, long may you run.