There were plenty of certainties during his steady and decorated career, not the least of which was winning, Scott Niedermayer concluding four different seasons holding the Stanley Cup.
His latest honor, however, was one on which the former Ducks defenseman never counted.
“I don’t think it was a foregone conclusion that this was going to happen,” Niedermayer said Thursday. “I didn’t expect it. … I’m pretty confident in saying it’s happening because of winning the Stanley Cup.”
It’s that, for sure, and probably a little more, Niedermayer and the 2007 champion Ducks helping to forever validate Orange County’s NHL entry and establish an expectation of success that has seen the team advance to the postseason in 11 of the last 13 springs.
On Sunday, the Ducks will retire Niedermayer’s No. 27, as high an honor as a club can bestow upon a player, even through he spent 13 of his 18 seasons with New Jersey.
Still, in just five years with the Ducks, Niedermayer became an all-time fan and franchise favorite because of his ability to control games from the blue line and carry the sort of influence that had him selected team captain for his debut season.
Niedermayer, who played his final season in 2010 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later, will become the third Duck to have his number retired, joining Teemu Selanne (No. 8) and Paul Kariya (No. 9).
He also will become the eighth player in league history to have his number retired by two teams, a group that includes former King Wayne Gretzky. The Devils retired No. 27 in 2011.
“It’s a very humbling thing when a team decides to do it,” Niedermayer said. “It speaks to … it’s not just one playoff series. It’s not just one year. It’s not just one thing. It really is the big picture of what you tried to contribute and who you are.”
He still holds numerous franchise records for the Ducks, including game-winning and overtime goals by a defenseman. When the team won the Stanley Cup, Niedermayer earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.
He came to Anaheim as a free agent in August of 2005, the Ducks announcing the deal in a release that also featured the news that Niedermayer’s brother, Rob, had re-signed.
For years, the two talked casually about one day playing together in the NHL. When the opportunity presented itself, Niedermayer decided to leave a Devils team with which he already had won three Stanley Cups.
“When I went to New Jersey, I think I went with a duffel bag and my hockey bag,” Niedermayer, now 45, said. “When I came out here, I had a whole semitruck full of stuff and three kids following me around.”
Niedermayer was going to a team that had missed the playoffs four of the previous five seasons. Randy Carlyle had just taken over as coach after the firing of Mike Babcock.
In that first season, Niedermayer helped the Ducks reach the Western Conference finals, where they were eliminated by Edmonton. The next year, they won it all.
“I’m a bit of a realist,” said Niedermayer, who still works for the Ducks as a consultant. “I don’t know if I would have bet a whole lot of money that we were going to win the Stanley Cup in two years.”
In perhaps the most memorable pass in franchise history, Niedermayer handed hockey’s prized trophy to his little brother during the postgame celebration. A photo of that moment remains iconic among Ducks lore.
The brothers will share another special occasion at Honda Center on Sunday.
“It still sort of seems, in some ways, unbelievable the way that whole scenario played out,” Niedermayer said. “I’m so grateful for the career I had.”