NHL Conference Call with Joe Nieuwendyk
Q. Thanks for taking this call. I just want to say you're a helluva player in all those battles of Alberta. I just wanted to say what do you remember about those battles and what do you remember about playing against Jeff Beukeboom?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, that was obviously early in my career, and I think the thing I remember the most is just how the two cities got involved. It was a rivalry like no other, especially in the sport of hockey, but I think it rivaled other sports, as well. Just the mayors got into it. I remember the mayors talking about who would wear the opposing city's jersey, and you couldn't get a ticket for those types of games back in the day around Christmastime, and it was just a thrill with the team they had, with Messier and Gretzky and Kurri, and we were trying to get past that group. It was a great thrill. To play against my cousin and have some of the battles we had, we grew up being very close together, and there was no love when it came to playing in those types of battles, though, and we got into it a few times. It was good, great memory, great times early in my career.
Q. I remember talking to you about lacrosse once and asking you if you would have gone into that sport if the salary had been just as good back in the '80s. Is that the case, and why would that have been?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, that would have been a tough decision for me. I love the game of lacrosse and really attributed a lot of my success in hockey to lacrosse. I don't know it's easy to say I would have taken lacrosse had the opportunity presented itself, but I have no regrets. I stopped playing lacrosse when I was 18. I think it was good for me. But the opportunity was there for hockey and I jumped all over it. But I still love the game. My brother in law is the coach and general manager of the Portland team, so I still keep an eye on what's going on in the lacrosse world.
Q. Just wanted to know with all the highlights that you've had in your career, and it was documented by Dave at the beginning, would one of the quasi disappointments maybe be coming to Toronto for that year? And I know they stocked up, they brought in Brian Leetch at the trade deadline, and not winning Cups for three teams but not being able to get deeper with that Toronto team, your hometown team?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: It was disappointing because we had a good group of guys, and I think that was an important thing. The locker room was solid; we had a competitive team and we were one of the teams that were in consideration that season, and bringing in Brian Leetch at the end of the year like you mentioned, I think it was obvious that we were going to try and make a run for it. It was disappointing, there's no question about it. Sometimes there is a fine line between winning and losing, and it was close against Philadelphia. I certainly have no regrets. I think I stated after playing for them for the years that I did that it was one of the greatest experiences of my career, having grown up in the Toronto area, to be able to play for my near hometown idols growing up. It was just a thrill to have the excitement of the Air Canada Center every night, and you really felt everybody living and breathing hockey in southern Ontario. It was a great experience.
Q. I guess just as a follow up, I know you said yesterday you told a Florida guy you want to take a little bit of time, spend it with your kids and that, but is there anything in the game you would like to do? Would you like to stay in the game, and if so, coaching, scouting? Have you even allowed yourself to think about any of this?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: You know, I thought a little bit about it. The game has been certainly great to me. It's great to all of us who are involved in it for so long, so I think naturally if the opportunity was right, I would certainly like to pursue it.
But I think everything is still so new that I'll just take it easy right now. I have three kids under the age of five, so I guess immediately I'm looking forward to Christmas with them, and then we'll see where life takes us. We're quite comfortable here right now, and we'll look at opportunities down the road.
Q. I was talking to an old buddy of yours Hakan Loob this morning. He couldn't remember your 50th goal on your rookie year. Can you remember it?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Can I remember it? I sure can. A little shot from Gary Suter from the point, I snapped on the rebound and pulled it to the forehand and it went off the inside post and up top. I vaguely remember it, but yeah (laughter).
Q. Who was it against, the Jets?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: No, it was against the Buffalo Sabres.
Q. Just as a follow up, talking to a lot of the guys that you started with here in Cliff and Tom Watt and people like that and Reiser, in the first place that you play, what are the lessons that you learned here that put you in good stead for a career that spanned 20 years?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, I think looking back now, ideally I don't think there could have been a better situation for me, being drafted and starting out my career with the group of people that I was associated with in the city of Calgary, right from the owners, Harley and Becky and the Siemen brothers, Normy Kwong and Sonia, it was a family atmosphere, and then we had people like Lanny McDonald, Timmy Hunter. You know, I really got embraced by everyone involved in it. It was so comfortable, and also having my buddy Gary there, I couldn't have asked for a better situation and a classy organization to really get me going on the right foot. I think that's some of the things I learned early in my career with quality people like Lanny and all those guys, they really showed me what it was all about. So I attribute a lot of that to why I've lasted so long.
Q. Joe, congratulations on a great career.
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Thank you very much.
Q. I want to talk about the moment in 1995 when you had the contract deal with the Flames and unfortunately it led to the business where it was ugly you being traded to the Dallas Stars. Can you just reflect back on that? It was kind of a good news, bad news situation because you ended up winning a Cup in Dallas, but can you recall the emotions around being traded from Calgary to Dallas?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, it was, it was very emotional. I knew it was going to happen obviously because I kind of instigated it. But for so many years prior to that we were like a big family as I mentioned in my last comment, that there was not a lot of player movement. I think a few years after us winning the Cup, we started to see the changing of the business of hockey, and then we started to see some players moving, Mike Vernon, Al MacInnis, and some of the core group of guys that I started my career with. I think unfortunately that kind of led the way to what happened with me. You know, it was unfortunate, but I think it I think after I left, the Flames obviously got a franchise player in Jerome and things kind of quieted down and we all went on with our lives, but it was difficult at the time because I did enjoy myself and had a real love for the city of Calgary.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, and congratulations on a fine career, about your memories of playing for Cornell and what kind of association you keep with the folks over there.
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, I have a great association with them. I've had a home there in Ithaca for 20 years now, and we go back every summer. I'm good friends with the current coach there, Mike Shaffer, and we keep in touch, so I'm always aware of how the Big Red are doing. You know, even during the lockout I spent three or four months there as a volunteer coach and was able to follow them much more closely. So I've enjoyed my ties with the University and the team I used to play for.
Q. Was that the 1995 or the 2005 lockout?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: 2005.
Q. Also, what was it like to go from scoring 52 points in your last year of college to scoring the next year 51 goals in the NHL?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, the biggest adjustment for me was the number of games. I think we played 21 or 22 games my final year of college hockey, and then to go into the next season with the Calgary Flames playing over 100 games with exhibition and playoffs was a huge adjustment. But again, they were great with me. They allowed me some days off, which is kind of rare for a rookie, but they knew I needed the time off.
Q. Joe, congratulations again. I was just wondering if there was a moment that stands out over your 20 year career that you feel was more special than the rest?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Oh, boy, that's a good question. As I said to some of my teammates the other day, I have so many good memories. I have several of them. One of the early ones was, and I've stated it before, seeing what it meant to someone like Lanny McDonald for me to see that early in my career, to see him go out the way that he did was inspirational for myself and Gary and for everybody. You know, so that's one of the memories I have early on.
I think I had an appreciation going through it the second time winning the Cup with Dallas having not gone had a sniff in the playoffs for a ten year period and then to see a franchise build the way we did in the city of Dallas where hockey wasn't really the most popular thing in the newspapers, to build to be a part of a franchise and build that and to ultimately win in 1999 was a great thrill for me, too. Those are some things that stick out. Obviously the two Olympic experiences, winning the gold medal in Salt Lake City, I've certainly had my share of great times.
You know, I think most importantly, just the relationships I've made with teammates on different teams and around the league. I think I cherish those types of things the most.
Q. And also, as you walk away, do you feel that the game is in good hands now with this large group of young players that seems to be taking the league by storm?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, I think so. I think the game has made great strides with some of the rule changes they've made. It's obviously made it faster, and the young kids coming into the game today are young, they're fast and strong, and to see some of these things they're doing, the Sidney Crosbys, it's fun to watch those kids now. They play at such a high level with great speed, I'll be a fan for many years.
Q. Can I ask you where you learned how to tip pucks so adeptly? We've got Ryan Smith here in Edmonton and he kind of stands and blocks the goaltender and I seem to recall you deflecting a lot of pucks from the side of the net and sticking that stick in and tipping them in.
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, I think that everybody was afraid of Al MacInnis' shot back in those days. You know, I don't know, I felt very comfortable in front there, and Al was such a smart player that he wasn't trying to score from back there, he was shooting for me, and we practiced it a lot in practice, and I felt very comfortable tipping his shots.
And I think maybe some of the lacrosse, the hand eye coordination had something to do with it, too, but right from the getgo, my start in Calgary that's where they put me, in front of the net. I had to earn my stripes. You had to use the lumber. I remember Ben Wilson giving it to me a few times in Chicago, but it was fun being in front of the net there.
Q. What about battling all these years with the injuries? When was the last time you felt your body was 100 percent, that you could play a season without going into it saying this is hurting, that's hurting?
JOE NIEUWENDYK: Well, from time to time it's been good. You know, these things accumulate over the years, and it's a rough game. I had some knee problems early in my career with Calgary, and then some back problems, but I don't know, here we are 20 years later, so I really don't have anything to be upset about.
You know, I've gone as hard as I can for this long, so I have no regrets.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Joe, for your time today. Congratulations.