When Scott Niedermayer was drafted third overall by the New Jersey Devils in 1991, the 17-year-old Alberta native didn’t know what to expect.
He had no way of predicting that it was the first step of an illustrious 18-season NHL career that would include four Stanley Cup championships -- three with the Devils -- and renown as one of the best defensemen of his era.
For Niedermayer, everything will come full circle Friday night, when the 38-year-old watches his No. 27 raised to the rafters in the Devils’ pregame retirement ceremony.
“I really didn’t have any idea of what I was getting into. I probably didn’t know exactly where New Jersey was, little did I know how great the journey would be -- how many great people I would meet and experiences I would have, so it was better than my wildest dreams,” he said during a press conference Friday. “To have this honor is obviously the icing on the cake. And it feels pretty good.”
Devils general manager GM Lou Lamoriello playfully joked that he will try to lobby the former Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy winner to suit up for the game after the ceremony. All kidding aside, Lamoriello said he was pleased to see Niedermayer join fellow defensemen Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko as the third player in franchise history to have his number retired.
“In a day and era that athletes are singled out for a lot of different reasons, this is a special individual,” Lamoriello said. “And going along with [Stevens] and [Daneyko], it’s really unique and we’re delighted.”
Niedermayer, who said he has put on his hockey gear only twice since his retirement in June 2010, is generally recognized to be one of the most decorated hockey players of all time. In addition to his four Cups (he won one in Anaheim in 2007 with his brother, Rob), he won two Olympic gold medals, a World Cup, World Championship, World Junior Championship and Memorial Cup.
Niedermayer said he is honored to be recognized by the Devils, with whom he spent 12 of his 18 NHL seasons.
“When I got the call from Lou that the organization wanted to do this, it obviously meant a lot to me,” Niedermayer said. “The time I spent here was amazing, the people I played with and being able to win championships like we did, it’s what any athlete wants to do. I was given that opportunity here and you wouldn’t ask anything more than that.”
Niedermayer, who will be joined in the ceremony by his wife, Lisa, and four sons, said he expects it to be a special night.
“I’m sure the emotions will start to flow as it gets close,” he said.
“It’s a great honor. I’m very proud to represent the Devils and to have my number up there, it means a lot to me.”