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Niedermayer says this is it

Scott Niedermayer looked up from his thank-you list after finishing the several-page roll of seemingly everyone he’d known during his 18-season NHL career.

He stared forward, looking at his wife, Lisa, and his four sons, seated in the front row of the news conference Tuesday where the Ducks’ captain and future Hall of Famer announced his retirement.

He started thanking them, but his tears wouldn’t let the words come easily: “No matter how things were going ... you made my life richer ... it was always great seeing you when I got home from the road.”

He stopped. The moment was too much. “I didn’t think I would do this,” he said, tears in his eyes as he tried to gather himself.

He drank some water, praised his wife’s patience and said “Thank you very much.” The room extended a warm applause.

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Then Niedermayer, the only hockey player in history to have won a Stanley Cup (he won four of them), Olympic gold medal (he won two), a World Championship, World Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior title, sat back in his chair.

It was official.

Not like in 2007, when the smooth skater and quiet leader retired after he helped lead the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup.

No, he was certain now -- and even said a comeback was out of the question. “I’m 100% committed to retiring and not playing hockey again,” the 36-year-old defenseman said.

He spoke fondly of his five years in a Ducks uniform and singled out winning the Cup with his brother, Rob, in 2007 as a “fairy tale” moment.

Even though he will stay with the organization as a consultant to General Manager Bob Murray, the Ducks lose the player who gave them legitimacy when he signed here in 2005 as a free agent after 13-plus seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

In five seasons, he became the Ducks’ all-time leader in goals, assists, points and power-play goals among defensemen. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle called him “as good as they come.”

“You look at the things he has been able to accomplish, and I’ve been very, very fortunate to coach a player like that,” Carlyle said.

With him gone, the Ducks have room to maneuver financially. Niedermayer’s salary cap hit last season was $6.75 million. Having that off their payroll, the Ducks can upgrade their defense, which greatly needs it. The only defensemen they have under contract for next season are Lubomir Visnovsky, Steve Eminger, Jake Newton, Nathan Oystrick and Brett Festerling.

They’ve been trying to re-sign restricted free-agent defenseman James Wisniewski but haven’t made much progress.

Will the team be more active in free agency now that Niedermayer is gone?

“We’ll see,” Murray said.

But Murray said you can’t replace what they lost Tuesday.

“You don’t replace Scotty,” Murray said. “All along, this day was going to happen and we’ve been preparing for this day, whether it was this year, last year, next year, we’ve been preparing for this. You move forward.”

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.


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