Sometimes an organization forgets what a player meant to the franchise and they don’t honour him/her properly. I believe this to 100% be the case with Joe Nieuwendyk (along with Al MacInnis and Theo Fleury). Nieuwendyk was honoured as a “Forever A Flame,” but not having his number #25 ever retired, which is a crime. The string of players after him that wore that number are an insult to his Flames legacy and it’s high time that get corrected.
Joe Nieuwendyk came to the Flames via Cornell University and the 1985 NHL Entry Draft (2nd round, #27) and he would explode onto the scene in his first full season in 1987-88. Nieuwendyk would play in 75 games as a rookie, score 51 goals and tally up 41 assists. His 95 points were good enough to secure the Calder Memorial Trophy, a spot on the All Rookie Team and finish 3rd in the Lady Byng voting. Not bad for a kid that was acquired with the pick Calgary received from Minnesota for Kent Nilsson.
From there on out it really was the Nieuwendyk show. In the next seven seasons he would post five 70+ point seasons, including a monster 82 (51G-31A) point effort during the historic Cup season of 1988-89. During that season, 19 of his 51 goals came on the PP, as well as 7 assists with the man advantage, but he didn’t stop there. Joe Nieuwendyk continued to play well in the NHL Playoffs. He would finish the 1989 playoffs having played in 22 games, scoring 10 goals to along with four assists. As was the case during the regular season, Nieuwendyk made you pay for taking a penalty. Of his 10 goals, six were on the PP. The end result would be the Flames hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first and only time in franchise history, one of three such times for Nieuwendyk.
Even though the Flames didn’t win another Cup during Nieuwendyk’s time, his tenure with the Flames was extremely successful. Post 1989, he would have these point totals until leaving: 85, 56, 75, 75, 50. He never had season under 20 goals after winning the Cup, with his best post ‘89 season effort being the follow up year. In 1989-90, #25 would put up a career high 95 points with the first of back to back 45 goal seasons. He was also durable during his days with the Flames, playing in 60+ games in all but one season in Calgary. That season where he played less? That was his last year in Calgary where he played in only 46 games.....yet still managed a 50 point season. That’s just how good he was.
As with all things that were good with the 1989 Championship team, they came to an end eventually. Nieuwendyk and the Flames were in a battle over money: he wanting more, the club wanting to pay less and once arbitration failed and Nieuwendyk refused to sign a deal, he was traded to the Dallas Stars for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen. Oddly enough as that era ended in 1995, it kick started another era in Calgary with Iginla taking the franchise over. The now famous line from Nieuwendyk “Who the hell is Jarome Iginla?,” now forever burned in Flames fans minds.
Post Calgary Nieuwendyk continued to run over the NHL. His seven years with the Stars were extremely successful, playing in 442 games with Dallas, piling up 340 points and winning another Stanley Cup in 1999, setting a career high in playoff games played (23) and points (21). After the 2001 season Nieuwendyk would head to NJ for two seasons with the Devils, winning his third Stanley Cup and then two final stops in Toronto and Florida before nagging injuries would force him to retire after the 2006-07 season.
Sure, he may have won two more Stanley Cups and have his best playoff year outside of the Flames organization, but he never was better than when he was in Calgary. In nine seasons with the Flames he would play in 577 games, score 314 goals, dish out 302 assists and play in all four ASG as a member of the Flames. He was also at his post season best with Calgary, making the playoffs eight times, playing in 66 games and recording 32 goals and 28 assists in that time.
Proof of just how dominant Joe Nieuwendyk was is that he still holds a place in the top 10 in many Flames career record categories. He’s third all time in goals (314), ninth in assists (302), fourth in points (616), fourth in even strength goals (173), second in PPG (130), seventh in short handed goals (11) and fourth in hat tricks with 10. He is also the youngest player to be named Flames Captain, receiving that honour at the age of 25 in 1991, a position he would hold for four straight seasons and was King Clancy Award Winner in 1994-95. And if that isn’t enough he holds the franchise record for goals in a game with five.
In 2011 Joe Nieuwendyk was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame, as well as the Ontario Sports Hall Of Fame in 2014 and the Flames “Forever A Flame” honour in 2014. And finally, in 2017 Nieuwendyk was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players Of All Time.
Other Players Having Worn #25 In Flames History
Eric Vail (1974), Willi Plett (1977-82), Greg Meredith (1983), Neil Sheehy (1984), Yves Courteau (1985-86), Mike Bullard (1987), Dave Roche (1999-2000), Sergei Krivokrasov (2000), Niklas Andersson (2001), Igor Kravchuk (2001-02), Martin Sonnenberg (2004), Darren McCarty (2006-07), Dave Moss (2008-12), Steve Begin (2013), Brandon Bollig (2015), Freddie Hamilton (2016-18), Nick Shore (2018)
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Is Joe Nieuwendyk the best player in Flames history to wear #25?
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