Monday, November 21, 2011


Joe Nieuwendyk-Enters the Hall with Class

For several years, Joe Nieuwendyk had doubts about becoming a hockey player.

“At one point in time, I thought I wasn’t big enough to play in the Ontario Hockey League,” he told me after participating in the puck toss at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Each inductee is given a puck and a stick, and is asked to flip the puck up in the air, and catch it on the blade of the stick. Easy stuff for a guy like Joe who always had a bit of magic in his hockey stick.

Nieuwendyk was born in Oshawa, and played his minor hockey in the area. He played one season with the Pickering Panthers, then in the Junior “B” ranks. It was at that juncture in his career when he chose to “go the educational route” and he accepted a scholarship to Cornell University in 1984. He played three years at Cornell, attaining all star status, and an All American designation.

He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1985 draft, twenty-seventh overall, in the second round. He began his NHL career late in the 1986-87 season, and then began a nine year stint with the Flames. He won the Stanley cup in 1989 with the Flames.

He also won a Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy that year as the playoff MVP. He spent parts of seven seasons with the Stars.

In 2003, while playing for the New Jersey Devils, Joe won his third Stanley Cup. He finished his career with stops in Toronto and in Florida with the Panthers.

Nieuwendyk was on the phone in his office in Dallas when he received the call from the Hall. Unfortunately he was making arrangements to attend the funeral of Harley Hotchkiss in Calgary. Hotchkiss was one of the owners of the Flames, and was instrumental in making Nieuwendyk welcome to the NHL. “Harley was truly unique. He established a family atmosphere in Calgary. There was a family barbecue before the season began. He will be missed”.

Nieuwendyk told me that he had grown up “like a lot of kids in Southern Ontario. When I played street hockey, I wanted to be just like my favourite player-Mike Palmateer!” That was a little surprising, considering their positions.

As a General Manager in Dallas, he is faced with making some tough decisions. He fired coach Marc Crawford prior to the beginning of this season. “We felt that we needed to go in a different direction. It was also difficult to release Marty Turco and Mike Modano.”

Nieuwendyk had some kind words to say about Andrew Raycroft, a former Wellington Duke, and his backup goaltender in Dallas. “It is a difficult role on any team. But Andrew has done a nice job for us. He is very well respected by his team mates.

Nieuwendyk also excelled at the game of lacrosse. He won the Minto Cup as Canadian Junior Lacrosse Champions with the Whitby Warriors. By the way, the award for the top rookie in the Ontario Lacrosse Association is entitled the “Joe Nieuwendyk Award”.

Joe finished his career with more than six hundred goals in regular season and playoffs, adding another six hundred helpers.

Always a competitor, Nieuwendyk summed up his feelings about hockey in his introductory remarks. “Whether it was in a rink, or on a pond, I always loved the feel of my skates on the ice, and the puck on my stick.”

Way to go, Joe.

James Hurst
November 21, 2011

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