Sunrise, FL - Florida Panthers forward Joe Nieuwendyk has announced his retirement due to lingering back problems.
'This game has been great to me,' said Nieuwendyk. 'I am forever grateful to all those players, coaches, general managers and everyone that I have been associated with throughout my playing career. I have had a lot of fun playing this game, but it was time for me to make this decision, as it was in the best interest of myself as well as my family.'
Nieuwendyk made the decision to retire following a visit to a specialist at a Cleveland clinic last Thursday. Doctors there advised the 40-year-old forward that it would not be in his best interest to try and comeback from injuries which have plagued him for the past three seasons.
On Monday, he informed head coach and general manager Jacques Martin that he was thinking of retirement, then made the decision public.
Nieuwendyk joined the Panthers prior to the 2005-2006 season as an unrestricted free agent. Following a 26-goal campaign last year, he has only played 15 games this season, scoring five goals, and has not seen action since November 28th.
The Oshawa, Ontario native was the 27th overall pick in the 1985 draft, and broke in with the Flames out of Cornell University in 1987. He is one of only three players in league history to reach the 50-goal plateau in each of his first two full seasons (51 in 1987-88 and 1988-89), joining Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
In a 20-year career, Nieuwendyk has accumulated 564 goals, 562 assists for 1126 points in 1257 games with Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto and Florida.
'Joe is a first-class act who has been a tremendous ambassador for the game,' general manager and head coach Jacques Martin said. 'His career numbers speak for themselves and he will forever be recognized as one of the league's most successful players. The entire Panthers organization wishes Joe and his family the best in their future endeavors.'
The 1988 Calder Trophy winner for top rookie in the NHL is also a three-time Stanley Cup winner, with Calgary (1989), Dallas (1999), and New Jersey (2003). His international career includes two stints representing Canada in two Winter Olympics, winning a Gold Medal in Salt Lake City in 2002.