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Sibling Revelry

Niedermayers will clash on hockey's ultimate stage

May 26, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

WEST ORANGE, N.J. — For a Canadian mother who from an early age pushed her two hockey-loving sons to pursue their on-ice passions, it might be the ultimate dream: The brothers have reached the Stanley Cup finals.

And a bit of a nightmare: They're on opposite sides.

For Carol Niedermayer of Cranbrook, Canada, mother of 28-year-old center Rob Niedermayer of the Mighty Ducks and 29-year-old defenseman Scott Niedermayer of the New Jersey Devils, "it will be hard" to watch the championship series that starts Tuesday night at East Rutherford, N.J., she said Sunday.

But after much thought and a discussion with her older son, she has come to this conclusion: She'll be rooting for the Ducks to take home the Cup.

Never mind that she is staying with Scott and his family in their New Jersey home, or at least she was as of Sunday afternoon, when she revealed during a conference call arranged by the Devils that she favored the Ducks.

Her reasoning: It's Rob's turn.

"I'm proud of both of their accomplishments in getting to the finals," she told a handful of reporters, "but I think that's where I'm at. Scotty has won two and Robbie hasn't won one, and although I'll be cheering for both of them to do their best on the ice, ultimately I would like to see the Ducks win the Stanley Cup."

A short pause.

"On a Devils conference call?" cracked a reporter.

Joked Carol: "And the line goes dead."

Clearly, she was enjoying the moment. And dreading it too.

"One son is at the pinnacle of his career and ultimately will be a loser," she said. "But it will just be the emotion of the moment. They'll be glad for one another, whoever does ultimately win it.

"Although I'll be sorry to see one lose, I'm going to be happy that the other one will win it. I guess the only reason I can pick is that one hasn't won it."

Scott Niedermayer, an offensively productive defenseman who was the third overall pick in the 1991 NHL entry draft, has spent his entire career with the Devils, winning the Cup in 1995 and 2000.

Rob Niedermayer -- chosen fifth in the 1993 draft, after the Ducks took Paul Kariya with the fourth pick -- started his career with the Florida Panthers and helped them reach the Cup finals in 1996, where they lost in four games to the Colorado Avalanche. Scott's Devils, on their way to the Cup in 2000, swept Rob's Panthers in a four-game first-round series.

Rob was languishing with the going-nowhere Calgary Flames before the Ducks picked him up at the trade deadline in March, dispatching two minor leaguers to Calgary.

Scott is the third-leading scorer for the Devils with 13 points in 17 playoff games. Rob is tied for third with the Ducks scoring eight points in 14 games.

They are the first brothers to face off in the Stanley Cup finals since Terry Reardon suited up for the Boston Bruins and Ken Reardon for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1946 series, won by the Canadiens in five games.

"It's going to be fun, something we're going to remember forever," Scott said. "Obviously, it doesn't happen often. We've played a lot of road hockey games together, and we played a lot together and against each other in junior a bit -- and one playoff series -- but the Stanley Cup will be something different, something special."

Said Rob, who at 6 feet 2 and 204 pounds is an inch taller and four pounds heavier than his brother: "We know each of us has a job to do. Afterward, we can sit back and look back and talk about it and say what a special time it was."

The brothers have always been close. They've climbed mountains together, fished together, played golf together and bought cars together for their parents, Dr. Bob Niedermayer and Carol, a retired teacher. They also bought land on Kootenay Lake, west of Cranbrook in British Columbia, where they built a house.

And though they've not spent as much time together since Scott was married -- he and wife Lisa have two sons, Logan and Jackson; Rob is single -- the brothers remain supportive and phone each other often. They last spoke Saturday, after the Devils beat the Ottawa Senators to set up the Stanley Cup finals showdown.

Twice, Scott has hoisted hockey's ultimate prize and twice Rob has been close enough to touch it, though he has kept his distance, bowing to a long-held belief in hockey that only those who have won the Cup are worthy of touching it.

When Scott took the Cup to the top of British Columbia's Fischer Peak, 9,300 feet above sea level, Rob watched from a second helicopter.

"That was close enough," he said. "I didn't win it."

His mother, for one, hopes he won't have to say that for long. She helped them to succeed in the sport, signing them up for figure skating to develop their skills and even teaching a power-skating class to get them more ice time.

"The city rec department asked if I wanted to be paid," she told an interviewer years ago. "I said, 'No, just find some time for my kids to skate.' "

This week is her payback.

But isn't she worried about losing her accommodations with her older son because of her allegiance to the Ducks?

"I might see my bags packed and out the door before supper tonight," she told reporters Sunday. "But I've talked it over with Scott and he totally understands. So, I think I'll be here for a while. If not, do any of you have an extra room?"

Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Ducks vs. New Jersey

*--* STANLEY CUP FINALS Best-of-seven series (* if necessary) Game 1 at New Jersey Tuesday 5 p.m. (ESPN) Game 2 at New Jersey Thursday 5 p.m. (ESPN) Game 3 at Pond Saturday 5 p.m. (Ch. 7) Game 4 at Pond June 2 5 p.m. (Ch. 7) Game 5 at New Jersey June 5* 5 p.m. (Ch. 7) Game 6 at Pond June 7* 5 p.m. (Ch. 7) Game 7 at New Jersey June 9* 5 p.m. (Ch. 7)

*--*

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