While the New Jersey Devils haven’t confirmed the date or the decision, Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice passes along a (since-deleted) Tweet from agent Al Dhalla that Scott Niedermayer’s number 27 will be retired next season. If Dhalla’s claims are correct, the jersey will go up into the Prudential Center’s rafters on Friday, December 16, although Gulitti makes a valid point that it might make more sense to retire his sweater when the Devils host the Anaheim Ducks (Niedermayer’s other team) on February 17.
Gulitti reports that the Devils and Niedermayer discussed the idea a bit last season too, which would make sense since Niedermayer’s No. 27 was no longer in use by fellow defenseman Mike Mottau, who awkwardly donned the number for three seasons in Niedermayer’s absence.
Niedermayer didn’t confirm the news with Gulitti, but he didn’t shoot down the rumor either. In a way it seems like an inevitable development when you consider Niedermayer’s impact on the franchise; he’s one of five players who were around for all three of the Devils’ Stanley Cup victories.
“It’s sort of a strange thing to talk about,” Niedermayer said. “If it does happen – and I guess maybe it will – it’s a great honor. But I don’t really find it my place to talk about it. It’s their decision ultimately. They’re in charge. They’re calling the shots, not me, and that’s the way it should be.”
“Lou will do it when he feels it’s right to do,” Niedermayer said. “In my eyes at least, I don’t think anything has been finalized anyway.”
When I asked Niedermayer how Dhalla might have come up with the Dec. 16 date, he replied, “There’s probably been a few dates that have been talked about and maybe that had been one of them. Whether everything has been finalized, I have no idea.”
As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out, the pending decision might rub some Devils fans the wrong way. There might be some Devils fans who still feel jilted over Niedermayer’s choice to sign with his brother Rob Niedermayer and the Ducks in 2005, where he would go on to win another Stanley Cup and play more excellent hockey.
In 2005, Niedermayer had a choice. He could remain a Devil via a lucrative unrestricted free-agent contract, stabilizing a franchise that was at the end of the Scott Stevens era on its blue line and entering a new trap-unfriendly era in the NHL; or, he could leave for the Anaheim Ducks’ less lucrative offer and play with this brother, Rob.
Niedermayer of course chose the latter, winning the Conn Smythe along with a Stanley Cup in 2007 and solidifying his place as a top three defenseman of his era.
The Devils? Well, if you were going to trace a line from their three-Cup mini-dynasty to their sometimes hapless years under the salary cap and new NHL rules, it begins at Niedermayer’s end in New Jersey.
To some, it might seem silly to hold a grudge on Niedermayer, especially when you take the presence of his brother Rob in Anaheim into account. Then again, others might argue that the mere act of being a fan is a bit silly, so it’s perfectly fair for some fans to smart about the choice Scott made six years ago.
The Devils and Niedermayer have eventually patched things up so it’s just be a matter of time before the team raises his number 27 up, whether that night comes on December 16, February 17 or some other time. We’ll keep an eye out for an official announcement, but how do you feel about the Devils retiring his number?