For Scott Niedermayer, there’s no place like home.
The Cranbrook native returned to his stomping grounds for Christmas and was honoured by the City of Cranbrook in a pre-game ceremony before the Kootenay Ice faced the Spokane Chiefs on Friday.
Accompanied by his wife Lisa and four sons—Logan, Jackson, Joshua and Luke—Niedermayer was presented with a plaque by mayor Wayne Stetski before a ceremonial puck drop.
He was given a standing ovation by 2,945 fans as he took to the microphone and briefly addressed the crowd.
“This is a special honour, Cranbrook is a special place, having grown up here, this is where my love and passion for the game began,” said Niedermayer. “Whether it was playing road hockey in my neighbour’s driveway, playing on the local ponds down at the fire department, and then obviously over at the Memorial Arena and the Kinsmen Arena—this is where I learned to love the game. I made great friends and have a ton of great memories, so It’s always great to be back.”
Niedermayer, a retired NHLer who captured four Stanley Cups over his 18-year career, is currently serving as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks.
Niedermayer and his family decided to come home and experience Christmas with some snow and ice, which isn’t too common in southern California. His parents and brother, Rob and his family, are still living around Cranbrook.
“We’ve gone out skiing, playing in the snow, a little bit of pond hockey, things like that,” said Niedermayer, “so we’ve had a great time staying out at my brothers place and obviously, the parents are here too, so it’s been good.”
Niedermayer’s career has been particularly special, as he’s won pretty much everything there is to win in junior, professional and international hockey. In addition to four Stanley Cups, Niedermayer has two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010) a World Junior Championship, a World Cup of Hockey, a World Championship and a Memorial Cup.
He won the James Norris Memorial trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman in 2004 and captured the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP in 2007, when he won his fourth Stanley Cup alongside his brother with the Ducks.
In November, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Toronto. Family, friends, former coaches and teammates came in from all across North America to be a part of the event, something that struck a chord with Niedermayer.
“It’s pretty overwhelming so not just being there and seeing the players that are in the Hall of Fame, but to have the support of the people that were there—and the people that weren’t there—I just know how many people supported me when I was playing and cheering me on behind their TV’s and that goes here in Cranbrook as well,” he said.
After retiring in the summer of 2010, he stayed on with the Ducks as a consultant to GM Bob Murray, before signing on as an assistant coach two years later.
Currently, the Ducks are having a pretty good season, tied up with the Chicago Blackhawks at 61 points for first place in the NHL.
Niedermayer attributes the success to a youth movement in the roster.
“We got a lot of good young players that I think are key to success in the league,” Niedermayer said. “With the salary cap, it’s hard to hold on to all your players, but if you can keep bringing your good young ones in, you’re going to have some success.
“We have a lot of good, young players that are playing together right now and believe in each other, so it’s fun to see.”