MIKE BROPHY The Hockey News
Next stop for Joe Nieuwendyk? The Hockey Hall of Fame. What the pleasant veteran centre may have lacked in flair, he more than made up in with skill and efficiency, winning three Stanley Cups with three different teams and the Conn Smyth Trophy in 1999 as the NHL's most valuable player in the playoffs. The NHL's rookie of the year in 1988 with Calgary also helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Nieuwendyk called it a career Wednesday because of persistent back troubles that plagued him throughout his career. You think Florida Panthers were bad with Nieuwendyk, just watch them sink now! I first came across Nieuwendyk when he starred for the Junior A Whitby Warriors of the Ontario Lacrosse Association. Players in that league were generally 16 to 21 years old, but Nieuwendyk was so talented, he was allowed to play at 15. He got banged around his first year, but eventually grew into a 6-foot-2, 200-pound powerhouse and became the Wayne Gretzky of lacrosse. He was unstoppable. On the ice, Nieuwendyk was one of the best two-way performers throughout his career and nearly unbeatable in the faceoff circle. He was a leader who set the example in terms of competing and professionalism for the young players who skated along side of him. Over the years people have asked me to describe why Nieuwendyk was such a valuable player and I offered a standard reply: It's because he did special things at special times.
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