Scott Niedermayer, whose sons Jackson and Joshua currently sport Vees colours, played an integral part in one of the franchise’s all-time greats’ own Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony.
Paul Kariya accepted his HHOF plaque from fellow Hall of Famer Niedermayer, both former Anaheim Ducks captains who never actually played together in Orange County.
Before accepting his plaque, Kariya’s journey that eventually led him to the class of 2017 started in the Peach City.
Coming up through the Burnaby Winter Club system, the North Vancouverite embarked to the BC Hockey League, where he spent two seasons in Penticton. Playing for the team during their Panthers days, Kariya posted 112 points in his freshman season and won most sportsmanlike player, most valuable player, and rookie of the year.
Kariya followed up his impressive rookie campaign with an even stellar sophomore season. After posting 132 points in just 41 games, Kariya saw the accolades continue. He won most sportsmanlike player and most valuable player once again and was named Canadian Junior A Hockey League player of the year.
From the BCHL to the NCAA
After a spectacular two years in Penticton, Kariya committed to the University of Maine for the 1991-92 season. In 39 games, Kariya scored 25 goals and added 75 assists for 100 points in his freshman season.
He earned countless awards, which included an NCAA championship, Hockey East player and rookie of the year, and claimed the Hobey Baker as the top collegiate player of the year. On top of that, won gold representing Canada at the 1993 World Juniors.
Following the 1992-93 season, Kariya was one of the first names to be called at the 1993 NHL Draft. He was the first pick of one of the National Hockey League’s two newest franchises, then named the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
They selected Kariya fourth overall. However, despite a path to pro hockey being laid out for him, Kariya decided to head back to the University of Maine for his sophomore season.
— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) June 26, 2017
Named captain in his second season at Maine, Kariya added 24 points in 12 games, spending more time with the Canadian national team than his collegiate squad.
Kariya went on to play for Canada at the 1994 Winter Olympics and won silver. He also donned the maple leaf at the 1994 World Championship, winning gold, and was named best forward.
Welcome to the NHL
Starting his NHL career in the 1994-95 season, Kariya had a modest rookie campaign with 39 points in 47 games. However, it was his second season when he took off, scoring 50 goals and added 58 assists.
Kariya’s full skill was on display and he claimed the Lady Byng as the league’s most gentlemanly player and was named to the NHL first all-star team. In his third season in the league, the young Ducks franchise decided to put the ‘C’ on Kariya.
He spent seven years as the face of the Anaheim franchise, earning another Lady Byng in 1997, and helping Canada win the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Kariya led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup appearance in 2003 but wound up leaving after nine seasons. He put up 669 points in 606 games in southern California before joining the Colorado Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2003, where he teamed up with former Ducks linemate Teemu Selanne. In an injury-filled season, Kariya struggled to find his form in Denver.
From Mile High to Music City to the Gateway to the West
After just one year with the Avalanche, Kariya joined the Nashville Predators in 2005, spending two seasons in Tennessee. He posted 161 points in 168 games before Kariya’s time in Music City came to an end as the Preds new owners decided not to resign the winger.
At age 33 and not willing to hang the skates up just yet, Kariya found himself in the gateway to the west. He spent three years in St. Louis and tallied 123 points.
His final NHL game came against his former team – the Nashville Predators – on April 11, 2010. He had an assist in that game and ended his career as precisely a point-per-game player.
Injuries derailed Kariya’s career, such as ankles, shoulders, and especially concussions. In June 2011, Kariya announced his retirement. The Ducks retired his number-9 in 2018.
Kariya has dealt with head and neck injuries since early in his career. He now lives under the California sun and found a new passion, always happy to catch a wave on his surfboard.