PENTICTON, Canada – Scott Niedermayer brought the most impressive IIHF résumé of the five new members inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame (BCHHF) on July 27.
The 38-year-old retired NHL superstar owns two Olympic gold medals from his memorable outings with Team Canada in Salt Lake City (2002) and Vancouver (2010). Niedermayer, who captured four Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003) and Anaheim Ducks (2007), joined the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club when he tallied five points in nine games en route to World Championship gold in the Czech Republic (2004).
The Norris- and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning defenceman can also cite his triumphs in the IIHF World U20 Championship (1991), the World Cup of Hockey (2004), and the Memorial Cup with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers (1992).
Other inductees included 1994 World Champion, 1998 Olympian, and 2006 Stanley Cup champion Rod Brind’Amour, 1964 Canadian Olympic assistant coach Robert Hindmarch (an associate of the legendary Father David Bauer), award-winning NHL broadcaster Jim Hughson, and 1991 BCHHF founder Scott Carter.
The gala evening was held at Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre. This impressive 5,200-seat hockey arena opened in 2008. It also houses the 50-year-old Okanagan Hockey School, which has attracted students from close to 30 countries, and the BCHHF’s memorabilia collection.
The BCHHF inductions are a signature event in this beautiful city of peaches and wineries next to Okanagan Lake, best-known for producing the 1955 World Champion Penticton Vees. Their namesake BCHL incarnation (Junior A) won a whopping 42 straight games at the Events Centre in 2011-12, and claimed the national Royal Bank Cup.
IIHF.com caught up with Scott Niedermayer after the ceremonies to reflect on his career, future NHL involvement in the Olympics, and other topics.
What enabled you to rise to the top so many times in pressure situations?
I don’t think too much about myself, personally. I really feel lucky that I got to be part of those teams, play with the teammates I played with, learn from the coaches I had. That’s why I was able to do that. I didn’t show up by myself with my hockey gear and do any of that. I was really lucky to be in those spots.
You were part of two incredible Olympic victories with Canada. What did you take away from 2002 that you were able to apply as team captain in 2010, having seen first-hand the leadership of guys like Gretzky, Yzerman, and Lemieux?
It was a very important experience. Being named captain in Vancouver, I think maybe some people who were making that decision thought about that factor a little bit. Having gone through the tournament, you realize it’s unique. It’s different from the NHL playoffs. It definitely helped me to know what to expect and hopefully guide the ship a bit in the right direction.
All the guys that were on that team did a great job in Vancouver. There was a lot of pressure on us. We were well aware of it. We tried to ignore it, which is difficult to do. But all the guys were focused on one thing, being the best team we could be. Everyone was willing to do whatever it took, and that’s why we won.
How important is it for the NHL to participate in the 2014 Olympics in Russia?
Well, I think it’s obvious that the fans love it. It’s great hockey. I know the players love it. Sometimes it is difficult when you have a long way to travel. It’s not easy. But the players always love an opportunity to represent their country. It means a lot to them. So let’s hope it continues.
It’s been a long time since Canada has won an Olympic hockey title overseas, dating back to 1952.
That’s an added challenge, for sure. When you’re playing in your own time zone with the comforts of home, it’s a bit of an advantage. No question. Going overseas is a challenge. But Canada will be right there again. We’ve got some great young players.
It’s a difficult tournament to win. You look at the teams that are out there now, how hard the Americans played [in 2010]. Actually, we ended up playing the U.S. in both the Olympic finals we won. They were good games. And there are many other tough teams. But it’s a tough tournament. That’s why people love watching it. That’s why when you win it, it means something.
Your old teammate Martin Brodeur just backstopped the Devils to the finals again. He was part of the last four Olympic teams. Is there any chance he’ll be there again in Sochi?
[chuckles] Well, he has won. He’s a winner, and that’s worth a lot for sure. At the Olympics, they do bring three goalies. I wouldn’t rule it out. But there are a lot of great young players, and I’m just looking forward to watching if it does happen, hopefully.
You were always known for your great skating. What would you tell a young player who says to you, “I want to skate like Scott Niedermayer”?
I don’t know. Obviously you need some God-given talent and a lot of practice. I was out taking instruction probably a lot of times maybe when I didn’t really want to. But my mom or dad said, “No, we’re doing this. This is what it takes if you want to try to be better.” That would be the main thing: just keep working at it.
Drew Doughty, who played with you at the 2010 Olympics, scored a beautiful solo goal for Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup finals that reminded a lot of people of one you got for the Devils against Detroit in 1995. Was it a valid comparison?
Sure. He’s a great young talented defenceman. He’s fun to watch. He makes the game entertaining. Now, obviously he’s on a rival team, considering I was in Anaheim, but it was fun to play with a young guy like that on the Olympic team. As an old guy, it’s fun to see the spirit and spunk of the young guys. He definitely had that.
In your retirement, you have a lot on your plate. You’re raising four young sons with your wife and you’re active with environmental causes. Are you interested in possibly taking on a role with Hockey Canada someday at an Olympics or World Championship?
I purposely am kind of taking things slowly. The big reason why I retired from hockey was that I wanted to free up time to do some different things. I’ve been enjoying that the last few years. But I’m trying to keep my doors open. Down the road something like that may happen.