When the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks officially retire Scott Niedermayer’s number 27 jersey this Sunday, the loudest cheers from the Honda Centre seats will be from a bunch of Okanagan kids.
Members of the Penticton Minor Hockey Association atom development team, which Niedermayer’s son Luke plays on and he helps coach, are making the trip to see the ceremony and play in a hockey tournament.
“I mean this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for for these kids so when the opportunity came up for us to go down and support him we couldn’t pass it up,” said atom head coach Peter Forbes, who helped the kids with their fundraising efforts over the past months.
“For me it was, well I think of all the years that I had growing up and watching Scott Niedermayer as a hockey player and how many times you got around your TV with your family and friends and you cheered on Team Canada or watched the Stanley Cup.
“That man has provided so many great moments for hockey fans.”
|Scott Niedermayer has some fun with kids and coaches at a practice of the Penticton minor hockey league he helps coaches.
Mark Brett/Western News
This is not actually the first jersey retirement for the star defenceman who played over 1,000 games in the National Hockey League and was voted one of the 100 best players in its history.
In 2011, the year after he retired from the game, the New Jersey Devils, who he helped to three Stanley Cups also hoisted his sweater to the rafters as did the Western Hockey League Kamloops Blazers where he won two Memorial Cups.
“I have a little bit of practice,” laughed Niedermayer, 45. “But that doesn’t take anything away from the honour, it’s obviously a tremendous honour for an organization to think that much about what you did for them so I’m pretty humbled and honoured that they wanted to it in Anaheim.”
A Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Niedermayer is also member of the Triple Gold Club, winning Stanley Cups, World Championship and Olympic gold medals.
The family moved to Penticton in the summer. Niedermayer’s other sons Jackson (injured) signed on with the B.C. Hockey League’s Penticton Vees while Josh enrolled in the Okanagan Hockey Academy where Scott also helps out.
“It seemed like a great place and we’re enjoying it for sure,” said Niedermayer.
About having his Penticton minor hockey team join him, he added: “It’s going to be really great having them there, great experience for them. I wanted to make sure they wanted to, not just because they felt they had to. I appreciate it.”
Niedermayer particularly enjoys helping coach the young players.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” he said thinking back to the time when he was growing up and playing minor hockey in Cranbrook.
“You remember all the little road trips, the times in a hotel goofing off with your teammates, playing some hockey so it’s neat to see my kids doing the same thing.
“It’s fun to be able to give back. I’ve benefited from a lot of good coaches myself over the years so if I can help a little bit I’m happy to do it.
“It’s fun just watching the kids enjoying themselves, make friends, play the fun game of hockey, is reward enough in itself.”
Niedermayer’s retired jersey will join those of two other Ducks’ past stars, (8) Teemu Selänne and (9) Paul Kariya.
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