SUNRISE, Fla., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Joe Nieuwendyk, who has scored more than 560 goals over a 20-year NHL career, said he is retiring as a player because of back problems.
Nieuwendyk, 40, said he came to the decision after a visit with a back specialist last week and told Florida Panthers Coach Jacques Martin on Monday that he was planning to retire.
Nieuwendyk joined the Panthers prior to last season as a free agent and scored 26 goals. But he was only able to play in 15 games, scoring five goals, this season and hasn't been on the ice since Nov. 28.
He was the 27th overall pick of the 1985 draft and played his first NHL game for the Calgary Flames in 1987. He is one of three players to score 50 goals in his first two full seasons and was the winner of the 1988 Calder Trophy, which is given to the league's top rookie.
Nieuwendyk played in a total of 1,257 games for Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto and Florida. Her scored 564 goals and had 562 assists.