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Chronic back problems force Florida Panthers centre Joe Nieuwendyk to retire

The 40-year-old Florida Panthers centre told reporters Wednesday that his 20-year NHL career was finished after doctors informed him that his chronic back pain would not improve.

"I have reached the stage where structurally my back isn't going to get any better," Nieuwendyk was quoted by the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. "It's not the way I intended it, but I have to be realistic as well." Nieuwendyk won a Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Flames, 1999 with the Stars and 2003 with the Devils. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1999.

He was also a member of the 2002 Canadian team that won the country's first Olympic gold in men's hockey in 50 years.

Nieuwendyk scored 564 goals and had 1,126 points in a career that spanned 1,257 games. He played for the Panthers, Toronto, New Jersey, Dallas and Calgary.

He appeared in 15 of Florida's 29 games this season, last appearing on Nov. 28 against Montreal.

Nieuwendyk visited a back specialist last week and told Panthers coach Jacques Martin of his choice to retire on Monday. Players were told Wednesday morning before practice.

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