The weekend that Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic and Adam Oates converged on downtown Toronto to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, four-time Stanley-Cup winner Scott Niedermayer also happened to be in town.
But he wasn't there to partake in the festivities. He was there for his 11-year-old son, who was participating in a hockey tournament in the area. The two-time Olympic champion didn't even set foot anywhere near downtown Toronto.
"I ran into [former teammate] Joe Nieuwendyk, who was there to see Sundin," Niedermayer told NHL.com. "But I never got downtown to see any of that."
With talk shifting from the Hall of Fame class of 2012 to prospective inductees for 2013, Niedermayer's has been a popular name. The 2004 Norris Trophy winner has his four Stanley Cup rings and two Olympic gold medals prominently placed on a mantle that includes a Memorial Cup, a World Championship gold medal, a World Junior Championship gold, a World Cup gold and the Conn Smythe Trophy. So it's no surprise everyone is talking about Niedermayer's inclusion in next year's Hall of Fame class.
Well, everyone except Niedermayer.
"People bring it up to me. I try not to think about it. If it happens, it happens. I'll deal with it then," he said. "It would be a heck of an honor. That type of thing is obviously out of my control. We'll wait and see."
That kind of "aw, shucks" modesty has been a Niedermayer trademark throughout his remarkable career. At no point during his 18 NHL seasons did the star defenseman even hint that his own accomplishments outweighed those of his team. Instead, the No. 3 pick in the 1991 draft has been reluctant to tout personal accolades -- especially the ones decided by other people. Like, say, the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee.
"That's just my personality. I'm a guy who likes to go about my business and let things fall where they may," Niedermayer said. "I think that's how I played the game. Probably not going to change my stripes now that I'm not playing."
If anything, Niedermayer's focus in retirement has shifted even further away from his own needs. With four sons ranging in age from 8 to 13, the five-time All-Star has been busy attending to his family. For Niedermayer, who also works in the Anaheim Ducks' hockey operations department, that selflessness has been a defining trait since childhood.
"Just his character and the way he approaches things. He hasn't changed. Even when he played, you wouldn't know he was a hockey player. He is very unassuming," former NHL defenseman Jason Marshall said. "He's one of the best professionals I've ever seen. The way he approached the game and the way he did his job. Obviously the success he had was amazing."
Marshall would know. The veteran of 526 NHL games grew up with Niedermayer in Cranbrook, British Columbia, where Niedermayer's father was Marshall's family doctor. The two were teammates for the Canadian team that won the 1991 World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, a tournament in which a then 17-year-old Niedermayer starred despite being one of the team's youngest players.
They would enjoy a reunion years later as Ducks teammates during the 2005-06 season, and today coach their sons' mite hockey team together. If there's one person who isn't surprised by Niedermayer's modesty, it's Marshall.
"He's been like that ever since I've known him. Last month, we were coaching and he said he had to go out of town for a couple of days, didn't tell me why. The next day my mom said, 'Scott's on TV. He's getting inducted into the Canada Hall of Fame.' He didn't tell anybody," Marshall said. "He's a cool guy. That's just Scott."
It's a common refrain from those who know him best -- just "Scotty being Scotty." More than two years since announcing his retirement, Niedermayer speculates that less modesty could be an asset in his post-playing career. But that doesn't mean one of hockey's all-time nice guys is likely to change anytime soon.
"Now it would pay if I was a little more outgoing at different times. Maybe there are moments when it [modesty] is not the best thing, but I'm sure there will still be times when it comes in handy, I guess," said Niedermayer, who expects to be asked about the Hall many more times before the inductees are named in June. "When people bring it up, I just say, 'Oh, that's great, thank you,' and just leave it at that. I've always tried to be focused on what you can control in the moment. That's out of my hands at this point."
Author: Tal Pinchevsky | NHL.com Staff Writer
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