This is thestrange thing: You spend all your life preparing to win a trophy, thinkingabout it, dreaming about it, tiptoeing around it when it appeared in yourmother's parlor three times, its glory illuminating your older brother butcasting a shadow on you. Looking at that iconic hardware wistfully, you wonderif your turn to cradle it will ever come. Then . . . . ¬∂ After all the strivingand stitches and concussions a piece of hockey's soul is finally yours, and yousee how woefully unprepared you are to be inducted into the brotherhood of theStanley Cup. You win. But you are at a loss. ¬∂ As your brother, the captain ofthe Anaheim Ducks and the best player in the playoffs, hands the trophy toyou--confetti fluttering and fans roaring--you riffle through the Rolodex ofmemory, hoping to retrieve something stirring, or at least something thatdoesn't sound silly, to mark this indelible moment of your hockey life. "Itwas tough coming up with something," Rob Niedermayer says. "I think Isaid, 'Thanks for winning the Cup for me.' And I know I told him that I lovedhim."
Rob Niedermayerlooks a mess. In a good way, of course. The mountain-man playoff beard has beentrimmed to Clooney-like stubble, but there is a nasty welt on the outside ofhis right eye caused by an errant stick the previous night and there are bagsunder both eyes that beg for a redcap. At this moment Scott Niedermayer, hisbetter-known brother, is in Los Angeles displaying the Cup on Jim Rome's TVshow, but Rob is happy to be basking in the natural light of a gloriousafternoon, gazing at the Pacific Ocean from the patio of a Starbucks in histony coastal neighborhood, unrecognized by the latte set. After the Ducks haddefeated the Ottawa Senators 6-2 in Game¬†5 to become the first Californiateam to win the Cup, Rob had lingered around the Honda Center and didn't gethome until almost 3:30 in the morning. By 5:30, he was awake. When his mother,Carol, saw him a few hours later, she blurted, "Oh, you're a Stanley Cupchampion!"
Maybe you rememberCarol. During the 2003 finals, when Rob and the Ducks played Scott and the NewJersey Devils, she became a Joan Crawford Mother of the Year award nominee bysaying that she was rooting for Anaheim. Her logic was unimpeachable: Scott, 16months older, had already won two Cups while Rob had lost in his one trip tothe finals. But the favoritism drew some raised eyebrows. "Most mothersunderstood," Carol said, as she celebrated on the ice last week with thefamilies of other Ducks players. More important, her boys grasped theintent.
The Stanley Cup isabout will and trust and goaltending--never forget goaltending--and it is alsoabout family. In Canada, hockey is less a game than an heirloom, passed fromgeneration to generation or, occasionally, between members of the samegeneration. (Scott and Rob became the 15th set of brothers to share the StanleyCup since the NHL's formation in 1918. The most recent were Brent and DuaneSutter with the 1981-82 and '82-83 New York Islanders. The most famous remainMaurice and Henri Richard of the 1956-60 Montreal Canadiens dynasty.) Carol, atrim woman with a steely gaze, had bequeathed her boys the gift of skating. Shetaught power skating in Cranbrook, B.C., a city of 20,000 in the Rockies. Inlieu of salary she was paid in ice time. At least twice a week she would pickup her boys at lunch, give them skating lessons and then deliver them back toschool. Scott, a defenseman, would become one of the NHL's most etherealskaters, a graying ghost whose blades barely skimmed the ice, while Rob, arelentless winger, would develop a purposeful stride that he displayed inGame¬†5 when he lugged the puck 120 feet down the wing and backhanded itpast Senators goalie Ray Emery.
June 17, 2007
Scott, who ascaptain would receive the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman if Anaheim won,was asked throughout the playoffs if he would first pass the trophy to hisbrother. (Typically the captain passes the Cup to the most senior alternatecaptain, in the Ducks' case, defenseman Chris Pronger.) Scott repeatedly saidhe had not given it a thought, a response as harmless as it was mildlydisingenuous. Scott thinks about everything; he is among the most sociallyaware athletes, a 33-year-old who ponders the world and his place in it."Scotty's a thinker," says Dr.¬†Bob Niedermayer, their father, whoalso was on the ice for the celebration. (The Niedermayers have been divorcedsince Scott and Rob were teenagers.) "Very organized." And havingplayed on four NHL champions, more than any other active player, Scott did notplot the Cup's path--he is captain, not social director--but was keenly awareof protocol. If the laws of physics don't apply to his skating, there was noreason he had to be all Miss Manners about playoff etiquette. With histeammates nudging him on, Rob, the other alternate, skated over to take theCup.
"Obviously itseemed like the right thing," Scott said after the game of what, in othercircumstances, might have appeared to be queue jumping. "I didn't stop tocheck who had played more games, but I didn't think anyone would hold thisagainst me. I was using a captain's prerogative.
"Peoplesometimes ask you to rate [Cups]. I've never done that, and I'm not going tostart now. But you can only dream of passing it to your brother. And to be ableto do that is definitely a highlight of my career. It was tough to enjoy theCup [in Cranbrook] when one has won it and the other hasn't. Now we'll get tokeep it for two days." He paused, smiled. "Maybe three." Captain'sprerogative.
Niedermayer familyfun fact: Scott hasn't called his brother "Rob" and Rob hasn't calledhis brother "Scott" for maybe 17 years. Rob is "Cliff" toScott, and Scott is "Norm" to Rob. "I had a friend who was callinghis buddy Norman, which I thought was a horrible name, so I started calling mybrother that," Rob says. "And with him being Norm, my friends startedcalling me Cliffie from Cheers."
On the brothers'own terms, then, the Ducks' sprint through the playoffs was the NormanConquest--with a sturdy assist from Cliff. In Game¬†5 of the second-roundseries against Vancouver, Rob wallpapered Canucks rookie Jannik Hansen, whocoughed up the puck along the boards, allowing Scott to fire a 45-footer past asurprised Roberto Luongo for a series-winning double overtime goal. InGame¬†2 of the Western Conference finals in Detroit, on Mother's Day, Robmade a neat pass to a pinching Scott, who scored another overtime game-winner.Said general manager Brian Burke after the match, "Happy Mother's Day, Mrs.Niedermayer." And in the clincher against the Senators, Rob, who scoredfive goals during the regular season, scored his fifth of the playoffs whileScott assisted with a memorable dressing-room speech.
After the Duckshad allowed Ottawa to twice creep within a goal during the secondperiod--"That period was a mess, a real gong show," Rob said--Scottcalmed his suddenly jittery teammates with a straight but soothing talk. Foronce in his singularly decorated career (he is the only person to have won aworld junior championship, a Memorial Cup, a Stanley Cup, an Olympic goldmedal, a world championship and the World Cup) Scott was the most volubleplayer. And he was a clear choice for the Conn Smythe trophy (the winner withthe fewest playoff points by a skater--three goals and eight assists--sinceCanadiens defenseman Serge Savard in the 1969 playoffs), underscoring his placeamong hockey nobility. Lord Stanley of Preston, meet Lord Scott ofCranbrook.
Rob, of course, ismore plebeian. After tantalizing the NHL in his third season with 26 goals asthe Florida Panthers reached the 1996 finals, his career sputtered and laterstalled after a hit by Eric Lindros in the 1997-98 season opener. The resultingconcussion would be the first of three in Rob's pro career. He would neverscore 20 again; instead he gradually evolved into a premier checker, a rolefirst defined for him by Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter in 2003, near theend of two middling seasons in Calgary. Rob was traded to Anaheim that spring,soon teaming with center Samuel Pahlsson to form the nucleus of what wouldbecome the NHL's best shutdown line.
Scott and Rob weremembers of Team Canada at the 2004 world championship, playing together for thefirst time since bantam hockey. When he became a free agent after the 2004-05lockout, Scott entertained several offers, but in addition to a swell contract(four years, $27¬†million) and virtual anonymity in hockey-indifferentSoCal, Anaheim was the one team that could offer the added fillip of a familyreunion. While the brothers were running their hockey school in Cranbrook inthe summer of '05, Scott returned from lunch with his wife, Lisa, one afternoonand told Rob he was signing with the Ducks. "We had to go back on andteach, but I had a big smile all afternoon," Rob says. "The kids musthave been wondering why that guy was smiling."
Now there aretoothless grins all around the Ducks, this team banded by unique brothers.Scott, who, when he puts on his glasses and grows his hair out, looks like anassistant English professor at UC Irvine, synthesizes ideas. Rob is moreimpulsive, more relaxed. "This is the difference between them," saysJess Bentall, Rob's fiancée. "Scott drives a Prius, and Rob drives aMercedes convertible."
Even at $3.50 agallon, sometimes gas prices don't matter, especially when you have carpooledfor the best hockey ride of your lives.
Brian Cazeneuve examines key questions for theoff-season and beyond.
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"You can only dream of passing the Cup to yourbrother," says Scott Niedermayer. "[It's] definitely a HIGHLIGHT OF MYCAREER."
Rob (left) gave Scott a hand after the Ducks beat the Senators in Game¬†5,becoming the first California team to win the Cup.
Before teaming up in Anaheim, Scott (top, right; bottom, with the Devils) beatRob (44) in the '03 finals.