Scott Niedermayer won’t go down as the last person in Kamloops Blazers history to wear No. 28, but the number will henceforth always be his.
The Blazers retired Niedermayer’s former number before a Jan. 25 WHL game against the Prince Albert Raiders. His No. 28 will hang alongside Greg Hawgood’s No. 4, Mark Recchi’s No. 8, Dean Evason’s No. 20, Greg Evtushevski’s No. 26 and Rob Brown’s No. 44.
Since Niedermayer moved into the NHL in 1992, the No. 28 has been in consistent use by Blazers players, most recently by defenceman Brady Gaudet during the 2011-12 season.
Niedermayer even remembers the first player to wear No. 28 after him – it was his good friend Bob Maudie, a fellow Cranbrook product who went on to play four seasons with the Blazers, winning two Memorial Cups.
“It was in good hands,” Niedermayer said. “We’re great friends, still stay in contact - he’s doing well. It’s pretty cool that we have that connection.”
Maudie, who is three years younger than Niedermayer, grew up on Brookview Crescent in Cranbrook, the same street where the Niedermayer family lived. Maudie’s brother, Alan, shot the iconic photo of Niedermayer raising the Stanley Cup atop Fisher Peak – it’s hardly a stretch to say that half the houses in Cranbrook have copies of that picture on their walls.
“There were the two Maudies, my brother (Rob) and myself and one other family (the Cains) – the families were very tight,” Niedermayer said following a Friday news conference. “We grew up doing a lot together – road hockey, pond hockey.”
Niedermayer only played three seasons with the Blazers (1989-92), picking up 190 points in 156 games. He also made the pass that set up Zac Boyer’s last-minute game-winner in the 1992 Memorial Cup final.
When Niedermayer was introduced at a news conference, Recchi, representing the Blazers’ ownership group, of which he is a part, said that Niedermayer’s “accolades speak for themselves.”
Those accolades – which were printed on the back of a shirt for sale during the game against Prince Albert – include the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL playoff MVP in 2007, the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman in 2004 and four NHL all-star selections, along with a spot on the 1993 NHL all-rookie team.
Niedermayer won four Stanley Cups (three with the New Jersey Devils, one with the Anaheim Ducks), a world junior championship, a World Cup, a world men’s championship and, of course, WHL and Memorial Cup championships with the Blazers in 1992. (Niedermayer’s name also is on the Memorial Cup with the 2002 Kootenay Ice, of which he is a co-owner).
Despite having a trophy room that’s probably bursting at the walls, Niedermayer was excited to get the call about the number retirement.
“It’s pretty special … it doesn’t happen every day,” he said, while sitting about a foot away from the Memorial Cup itself. “It (means) a lot.”
Niedermayer doesn’t remember how he ended up wearing No. 28 with the Blazers. He spent his entire NHL career wearing No. 27.
“I think when I got to New Jersey, somebody had 28 there, otherwise I would have kept wearing it,” he said. “It worked pretty well for me here (but) there was a player that had 28 (in New Jersey) so they gave me the next-closest thing.
“I was never too fussy about the number thing, but the numbers I ended up wearing worked well.”
Niedermayer may have started his hockey career in Cranbrook and ended it in Anaheim after the 2009-10 season, but he made a major mark on Kamloops, and it affected him as well.
“This morning, I went and visited my billets’ house where I stayed when I played here,” he said. “They’ve spruced it up a bit here and there, but it’s still the same house.”
Niedermayer had a gaggle of friends and family come out Friday. He was joined by wife Lisa and their four sons – Logan, Jackson, Joshua and Luke – as well as mom Carol and brother Rob, also a former NHL player.
Former Blazers general manager Bob Brown also attended last night, as did Brian Burke, Niedermayer’s GM in Anaheim. WHL commissioner Ron Robison made an appearance, as did Hawgood. Jarrett Bousquet, another former Blazers defenceman from Cranbrook whose agency represents Niedermayer, also attended.
“With Mark (Recchi) here and other people coming in – it means a lot,” Niedermayer said.
Niedermayer recently was named an assistant coach with the Ducks, and also has been serving as a coach for three of his sons’ minor teams.
“I’m at the rink more than I’ve ever been, really,” said Niedermayer, who lives in Anaheim. “I realize now what my parents did. Going to the rink and tying an eight-year-old’s skates is not one of the easier things to do when they’re squirming around.
“I’m enjoying it a lot – that’s one thing that retiring has allowed me to do.”