Joe Nieuwendyk is returning to the Calgary Flames.
For one night.
March 7 — before a game against the New York Islanders — the team is paying tribute to one of the top goal scorers in franchise history. Like Al MacInnis, Nieuwendyk is having a Forever A Flame banner raised in his name.
“I’m flattered, I’m honoured to be recognized by that organization,” Nieuwendyk, 47, said Friday afternoon. “I spent almost half my career there. A lot of great memories. It really does hold a special spot. You don’t realize it when you’re going through it, but you don’t realize how fortunate you were to be in that particular moment for all those years in that organization with that group of people.”
His No. 25 is not being hoisted to the rafters — already, it’s been sported by the likes of Dave Roche, Sergei Krivokrasov, Niklas Andersson, Igor Kravchuk, Martin Sonnenberg, Darren McCarty, David Moss — but that’s OK, says Nieuwendyk.
“They did retire (Mike Vernon’s and Lanny McDonald’s jerseys) and then they kind of changed their policy. I don’t care either way. Maybe someone has an issue with that, but I don’t.”
Nieuwendyk’s term with the Flames had started with a bang.
His 1987-88 rookie season — 51 goals … and the Calder Memorial Trophy.
His 1988-89 sophomore season — another 51 goals … and the Stanley Cup championship.
“It really doesn’t feel that long,” Nieuwendyk said of the Cup run. “I just played a little outdoor game of hockey last month with Lanny and Gary (Roberts) and we’re all buzzing around pretty good still. So, no, it’s hard to believe it’s coming up on 25 years. It’s amazing how the time flies. That’s when you look back … just amazing how the days have flown by.”
Nieuwendyk, who retired in 2006, is one of only 10 players in NHL history to win Stanley Cup with three teams — Flames (1989), Dallas Stars (1999) and New Jersey Devils (2003). Three years ago, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
But he’ll never forget his time with the Flames.
“It’s essentially where I grew up as a player,” he said, “leaving Cornell with my only pair of dress shoes and joining Nicky Fotiu and Lanny and Johnny Tonelli and those guys. Those guys kind of showed you the way, along with (Jim Peplinski) and Timmy Hunter. Just a classy group of people who taught me to be a professional.”
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