SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida Panthers forward Joe Nieuwendyk retired Wednesday because of chronic back problems, ending a 20-year NHL career.
Nieuwendyk, who won three Stanley Cup titles and helped Canada capture an Olympic gold medal in 2002, missed 14 of the Panthers’ first 29 games this season because of the injury. He made the decision to retire when doctors told him that his back simply wouldn’t improve.
The center finished his career with 564 goals and 562 assists in 1,257 games.
“He was an all-around elite player,” said Montreal general manager Bob Gainey, Nieuwendyk’s coach and GM with the Dallas Stars. “He is the kind of player whose accomplishments merit consideration for the Hall of Fame.”
Nieuwendyk, 40, visited a back specialist last week and told Panthers coach Jacques Martin of his choice to retire on Monday. Players were told Wednesday morning before practice.
Nieuwendyk spent the first nine seasons of his NHL career with the Calgary Flames, then played parts of seven seasons with the Dallas Stars. He also played for the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs before he and longtime friend Gary Roberts signed with the Panthers before the 2005-06 season.
Nieuwendyk was the 1999 Conn Smythe Award winner â€” given to the MVP of the NHL playoffs â€” while helping the Stars win the Stanley Cup. He also helped the Flames win the Cup in 1989 and was part of the Devils’ third Cup-winning team in 2003.
Nieuwendyk finished his career ranked 19th on the NHL goal list and tied with Hall of Famer Mike Bossy for 48th place with 1,126 points.
No question, Joe Nieuwendyk was a very good player for a long period of time in the NHL. He will be missed.
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