ANAHEIM, Calif._Even a sure-fire Hockey Hall of Fame nominee is not immune to a nervous moment or two.
After all, Brendan Shanahan was considered a near lock a year ago, and did not get the phone call from the 416 area code, which would signify word from the Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Former Anaheim Ducks star defenseman Scott Niedermayer was doing his best to stay occupied while on vacation with his wife on Vancouver Island, knowing in the back of his mind that he could get the phone call.
“I had kind of a weird moment, people saying how you should be waiting for a call and things like that,” Niedermayer said. “We went out, tried to keep busy in the morning.”
The call representing the ultimate in career recognition came Tuesday and Niedermayer’s formidable resume now has another dazzling entry: Hall of Famer, class of 2013.
Niedermayer, who played for the New Jersey Devils and led the Ducks in their Stanley Cup run in 2007, was joined in this class by defenseman Chris Chelios and Shanahan, a forward. In addition, the late Fred Shero was elected as a builder, and pioneer Geraldine Heaney went in the women’s player category.
Said Heaney: “It was unbelievable receiving the call. You guys probably heard it in my voice … as a young girl playing hockey never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be going into the Hall.”
Niedermayer, 39, is an assistant coach with Anaheim and the Ducks consider him their first player to make the Hall of Fame. Adam Oates and Jari Kurri both played briefly for the Ducks but are in the Hall primarily for their contributions with other teams.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Niedermayer, later calling the phone conversation surreal. “It’s probably going to take awhile to sink in.”
In his 17 NHL seasons, Niedermayer won four Stanley Cup titles (three of them with the Devils), the Norris Trophy (the league’s best defenseman) in 2004 and the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff most valuable player) in 2007.
He signed with the Ducks as a free agent so he could play with his younger brother Rob on a championship team. Former Ducks general manager Brian Burke, who negotiated that deal, serves on the 18-member HHOF selection committee.
“To be able to hand (Rob) a Stanley Cup was definitely a highlight of my career,” Niedermayer said. “He played a long time, been close a couple of times and wasn’t able to pull it off. To do it alongside him was special. Probably something you’ve never dreamed of being able to do. A great memory I’ll take with me forever.”
Success followed him on the international stage. Niedermayer won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010.
Niedermayer, who grew up in Cranbrook, British Columbia, reflected on his long and winding hockey journey.
“There are a lot of great people you meet, friends you make, starting from growing up in a small town in B.C, playing pond hockey and working your way up,” he said. “Playing in the NHL, winning championships, representing your country.
“But just lots of fun moments with your teammates. On the road, getting dressed in some little rink somewhere for practice. It’s a pretty special feeling too, being able to win a championship and sitting in a room and just looking around and realizing the sacrifices and the things all your teammates have done to help the team win.”
Chelios, 51, was a marvel in terms of ability and longevity. He played until 48, amassing 1,651 games played, most by a defenseman. He won three Stanley Cup titles, one with Montreal in 1996 and two with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008.
Shanahan, 44, also has a Detroit pedigree, winning three Stanley Cup titles with the Red Wings. He started and finished his career with New Jersey. In 2011, he became the league’s chief disciplinarian.
Heaney, 45, was a standout defenseman, winning gold for Team Canada in 2002 and silver in 1998. Shero was regarded an innovator as a coach, having studied international hockey before it became fashionable and was adept at adapting to the skill set of his players. Shero was the coach for the Philadelphia Flyers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.
His son, Ray Shero, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was on the conference call with the media, along with Chelios, Niedermayer, Heaney and Shanahan.
Distributed by MCT Information Services