|6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
186 lb (85 kg)
|NHL Team||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Born||June 18 1980
|NHL Draft||168th overall, 1998
|Pro Career||1999 – present|
Antero Niittymäki (born June 18, 1980) is a Finnish professional ice hockey goaltender. Currently a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he has played the majority of his career for the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (NHL). He has previously played in the SM-liiga and the American Hockey League. He was the first goalie to score an overtime goal in North American pro-hockey history. At the 2006 Winter Olympics, while playing for team Finland, he was voted the MVP of the entire ice hockey tournament.
From 1995 to 2002, Niittymäki played for TPS in the SM-liiga (Finnish elite league). In 1999 he started playing in the non-junior SM-liiga. In 2000 he won the Jarmo Wasama memorial trophy for Rookie of the Year, and led TPS to their second straight SM-liiga championship.
Niittymäki was the Philadelphia Flyers' 7th round pick (168th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. "I didn't even know I got drafted. I found out the next morning. I was really surprised," he said in an interview in November, 2003. Even if he would have opted to come immediately to the United States to play hockey, compulsory military service kept Niittymäki in Finland until January, 2001.
From 2002 to 2005, Niittymäki played for the Flyers in the NHL and the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate. While in the AHL, Niittymäki made his name known. He was named the Sher-Wood AHL Player of the Week for the week ending on November 16, 2003 after posting a 0.41 GAA and .984 SP. He played for PlanetUSA in the 2005 AHL All-Star Game. The Phantoms organization gave out Antero Niittymäki bobbleheads on February 27, 2005 and Niittymäki figurines on March 3, 2006.
Niittymäki scored a game-winning, empty net, overtime, shorthanded, unassisted goal on April 11, 2004 versus the Hershey Bears. The game ended 3–2, with Niittymäki recording 32 saves as well, which finished the 12–0 Philadelphia season sweep of the Bears.
The Phantoms won the Calder Cup in 2005 after sweeping the Chicago Wolves. Niittymäki received the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for being the MVP in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He had a 1.75 GAA and 15 wins, three of which were shutouts.
Niittymäki played 3 games for the Flyers in February, 2004. He was allowed to play after Robert Esche was injured and Jeff Hackett was forced to retire because of vertigo. He won all three games, posting a 1.00 GAA, against the Washington Capitals, Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. His starting stint ended after the Flyers acquired Sean Burke from the Phoenix Coyotes. Upon Esche's recovery, Burke took over the backup job and Niittymäki was sent back down to the Phantoms.
Niittymäki started the 2005–06 season as the Flyers' backup goalie for Esche. On October 14, 2005, Niittymäki let in a questionable goal immediately after a faceoff on the Pittsburgh Penguins' side of center. He was watching a JumboTron replay when Maxime Talbot softly shot at him and scored.
While Esche was on the injury list, Niittymäki got the opportunity to start with Jamie Storr being his backup goalie. Niittymäki started seventeen consecutive games while Esche was unable to play. He recorded his first NHL shutout and assist/point during this time. He was named the NHL Defensive Player of the week for the week ending on January 8, 2006 after posting a 1.33 GAA and a .953 SP along with a shutout.
The 2006–07 NHL season revolved around injuries for Niittymäki. He suffered a torn labrum injury to his left hip during training camp. Doctors decided to try giving him cortisone shots to postpone surgery, which would have sidelined him for 6–8 weeks. The first shot allowed him to get back on the ice for the start of the season, but by late December he needed another shot. Despite this, he managed to take over the starting goaltender position from Esche. However, Philadelphia acquired Martin Biron and he was given the starting position for the rest of the year. Niittymäki finally had hip surgery in summer 2008.
He continued play for the Flyers for the next two seasons (07-08 and 08-09). In June/July 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, practically ensuring that Niittymäki would not be signing with the Flyers for another season.
On July 10, 2009 the Tampa Bay Lightning signed free agent Antero Niittymäki as a back up goalie for young Mike Smith. The 2009 offseason had marked the first time in Niittymaki's NHL playing career that he was an unrestricted free agent.
|Olympic medal record|
|Men's Ice hockey|
|Silver||2006 Turin||Ice hockey|
Niittymäki was named to the Finnish national men's ice hockey team for the 2006 Winter Olympics after Kari Lehtonen and Miikka Kiprusoff had to pull out due to injuries. Despite being a relative unknown with little top-level experience, he put in a stellar performance and was named the MVP of the tournament after posting 3 shutouts in 6 games, leading Finland to the silver medal.
Niittymäki played for Finland in the 2006 IIHF World Championships until the last game of the qualifying round against Canada, in which he got injured and was replaced by the team's reserve goalie Fredrik Norrena.
|Senior Int'l Totals||10||7||2||1||571||14||5||1.53||.939|
|Winner of the Jarmo Wasama memorial trophy
|Winner of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy
|This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Antero Niittymäki. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|