HHOF: Joe Nieuwendyk

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Leadership is a funny quality among people as it is very hard to quantify and there are a number of different ways to lead. In sports leadership is a much-needed aspect to any team as all teams wish to find leaders in order to keep their team together and for their team to play as one. There are plenty of leaders out there but again it is one of the strangest things to express as there is really no measurement. Recently the NHL created a type of measurement as they created an award given to a player every year who expresses the quality of leadership in his team and in society. This award is named after the greatest leader of all time Mark Messier who was known for his ability to bring a team together and win. Messier is the best leader in the game but there are many more great leaders that have come and gone in the NHL. One of these will get the ultimate honour this Monday as Joe Nieuwendyk will be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the class of 2011. Nieuwendyk was one of these great leaders in the NHL and showed this in Calgary where he was captain from 1991-1995. Niewendyk was not only a great leader he is also known as a very gritty and very good centreman. As one of the best faceoff men in the NHL Nieuwendyk always gave his teams the puck off the faceoff. He was also a very tough player but not in the traditional sense. Nieuwendyk rarely dropped the gloves but he was still one of the toughest on the ice. As a throwback to the old days Nieuwendyk loved to stand in front of the net and be aggressive while there. This did take its toll however as he was continually injured and repeatedly missed seasons due to injury. The final blow came with his chronic back issues that eventually forced him to leave the game after 20 seasons of punishment. Nieuwendyk was a true throwback and ended his career with numbers that were not overly impressive but left with a sense of respect rarely found among opponents. Nieuwendyk was pure class when he played as he rarely talked any trash but never backed down from anyone. His poise and skill made Nieuwendyk one of the most respected players in the NHL and he remains one of the most respected people in his role as the GM of the Dallas Stars.

Nieuwendyk grew up in Whitby, Ontario, although he was born in Oshawa, and he grew up like many Canadians surrounded by Hockey. With his cousin, Jeff Beukeboom, Nieuwendyk rose throughout the hockey world. He had a different path though as after playing for the Pickering Panthers in Ontario Junior B he went the NCAA rout. Not many go through that way and even less go through the Ivy League system to the NHL. Nieuwendyk spent three years at Cornell where he played for the Big Red. In his first season with the Big Red he scored 21 goals and had 24 assists for a 45 point year. This performance raised enough interest with the NHL as the Calgary Flames drafted him in the second round, although he stayed with Cornell for the next two years. In his first full season with the Flames Nieuwendyk proved the brass right in drafting him as he scored 51 goals and had 41 assists for a 92 point year that earned him the Calder Trophy as well as the Dodge Ram Tough Award for the 1988 season. When Nieuwendyk was healthy he continued to produce and was able to lead his team to multiple playoff runs. Three of these seasons ended in his biggest successes. Nieuwendyk won three Stanley Cups with three different teams including the Calgary Flames (1989) Dallas Stars (1999) and New Jersey Devils (2003) he is one of four players to accomplish this feat. He earned numerous awards for his leadership including the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his leadership in 1995 and the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff performance in 1999. While in the NHL Nieuwendyk also played repeatedly for Team Canada where he was a constant figure on the team and won the 1886 Silver Medal for the World Juniors as well as a Gold Medal in 2002 with the Olympic team. When Nieuwendyk was forced to retire due to a nagging back injury he was in good standing as a great centre with 564 goals, 562 assists, for a total of 1,126 points. Nieuwendyk will enter the Hall of Fame as one of the most respected and well liked players in the NHL. He will also go down as one of the best centres in the NHL with the ability to lead players by his example of tough gritty play.


Joe Niewendyk, C (1987-2007)

6’2” 195 lbs

Calgary Flames (10 years)

1,257 GP

564 G

562 A

1,126 P

677 PIM

+149 +/-

– 3 Stanley Cup Wins (1989, 1995, 2003)

– 4 All-Star Selections (1988, 1989, 1990, 1994)

– Calder Memorial Trophy (1988)

– King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1995)

– Conn Smythe Trophy (1999)

– Also played for Dal. Stars (’95-’02), N.J. Devils (’01-’03), Tor. Maple Leafs (’03-’04), and Fla. Panthers (’05-’07)

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  1. […] With this moment behind them the rest of the Hall of Famers entered into a very exclusive club. Joe Nieuwendyk entered the Hall of Fame as one of the few great leaders and a player that could just simply win as […]

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