Gold Medalist Scott Niedermayer Visits Oakley
Gold medalist defenceman Scott Niedermayer, his wife, Lisa, and youngest child, Luke, stopped by Oakley last week. Oakley presented Scott with a gold watch to match his freshly earned gold medal. In addition to his two Winter Game golds, he is the only player to win every major North American and international championship which includes the Memorial Cup, World Junior Championship gold, IIHF World Championship gold, four Stanley Cups and the World Cup.
Scott graciously and entertainingly answered all of our questions. Scott discussed everything from what it was like to win gold in front of his home country, to growing up with a brother that is also a professional hockey player, to his life after hockey, to his environmental concerns. Scott is a supporter of the green-environment movement and drives a zero emission Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell electric car.
Before the interview we admired Scott’s phenomenal ability on the ice. After the interview we respected and admired Scott period. He is extremely positive and is the opposite of a stereotypical self-absorbed athlete.
What was more important to you—winning gold in Canada or winning the Stanley Cup?
I can’t really answer that. They’re different. Competing for your country is pretty cool and being in Canada when people were so into it was special. But the Stanley Cup is something I’ve been thinking about since I was 5 or 6 years old.
Is it harder to win a Stanley Cup?
It’s different. The Games are so quick. The team comes together so quick. A lot of the guys you don’t even know them that well. So you have to figure it out as you’re going. Then it’s over and you’re gone the next day or some guys left that night. You don’t really get a chance to enjoy it.
The Stanley Cup is something that is all year long. The playoffs are long. Once it’s over you have parties together. You get to soak it all in. It would’ve been nice to do that with the Winter Games to stay around and enjoy what you did but that’s not the way it works.
I’m glad I don’t have to trade one for the other.
So what’s next? Start a farm?
(laughs) Yeah drive my brother’s tractor. I don’t know. I have to make some decisions on whether I’m going to keep playing or not. I have a lot of ideas and things I want to do. I’d like to do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do. I’d like to get on vacation with the family. Ski, go to the beach and stuff like that. Hockey, or any professional sport, is pretty demanding. Once we start in September, you really have no time off.
What’s the biggest obstacle you faced during your career?
Probably the toughest thing I faced was when I was younger, around 21, in New Jersey, I had a coach that was very defensive-minded in how he coached the team. And as a junior, everybody loved to score goals. I loved to score goals. The coach was really conservative in how he played and I found it very hard to buy into what he was teaching. I fought that for quite awhile. We butted heads for two or three years which wasn’t fun at the time. I was down and wished I could go do this or that. But as I look back, I learned a lot that has probably helped me to be a better player.
It was depressing at the time. Actually, he was the coach that was with us when we won the first Stanley Cup. So it’s hard to argue with that. He was actually the assistant coach for Canada. We have a better understanding now. I’m not quite as stubborn and he gives me more leeway.
How helpful was it having a brother who is also a professional hockey player?
I think the biggest thing was just growing up together. We are only 16 months apart. We were together all the time, competing, playing together, skiing, hockey, soccer. There was always someone to play with would be the big thing.
We were together so much as kids that, when we were first on the NHL and on different teams, we didn’t think that much about it. No big deal. We had seen enough of each other. As we got older, I had an opportunity to sign with a team where we could play with each other. We had played apart for 15 years at that point. I had been married and had a family and he just got married and had his first child. So it was kind of neat to hang out for four more years and get to know each other’s family a bit better. We had a good time. And winning a Stanley Cup together was pretty special.
When you win the Stanley Cup, you get to have the Cup for a certain amount of time. What are some of the cool stories you have from having the Cup?
I’m not a good partier. (laughs) If you want a good party, don’t come to my house. But there are plenty of guys that are. It would’ve been neat to go to Finland when Selanne took the Cup there. Apparently he had it for two or three days and he didn’t sleep the whole time.
I’ve taken it down to B.C., our home town. A lot of it is taking pictures, taking it around town, to the fire station, to the hospital, wherever. You’re pretty busy. I guess you don’t have to do that, but it seems pretty worthwhile. People seem to enjoy it.
Lisa (Scott’s wife): There is always a guard (Scott says escort) who comes with the Cup. When they come to our house, they sleep since our parties are mellow. For everyone else they are up until 4, 5 in the morning.
Scott: There are two of them. They have a crazy summer going to party after party after party.
What is the best advice you’ve heard?
I’ve been really lucky having really good coaches since I was really young. Even the one I didn’t like at the time taught me a lot. I’ve played with some really good people. When I got to New Jersey, there were older defencemen. There were probably five older defenceman that had been in the league a long time and were very good. To just watch them, play with them, be with them, you learn a lot from that as well. I’ve been lucky to soak it in.
Who are your favorite guys that you have played with over the years?
That sticks out the most in my mind. Guys that are really always having a good time because we’re together so much. It’s pretty monotonous—everyday going to the rink doing the same thing. So when you have guys that are able to do that and still have fun, those are the guys that really stand out.
Like (Teemu) Selanne. He’s such a happy guy. This year he broke his hand, broke his jaw, got hit with a puck. Pretty nasty stuff. Then he fell into a board and hurt his shoulder, but he doesn’t stop and he keeps on smiling. It keeps me going. I’m more of a low key guy. Doug Gilmore, an older player in New Jersey, had the same type thing.
Ken Daneyko was a crazy guy that was fun to be around. It seems to be a little different now. Players are a little more reserved in how they handle themselves. There’s so much media now and they are taught that at a young age.
When I first got into the league, you would hear all the old stories, see all the characters. It was neat to start my career that way.
Do you cross train?
I always think it is a good idea. Your body can get worn out from doing the same thing over and over again. In the summer I like to bike, both road and mountain. There is great mountain biking back home. I like to hike too.
You have said that you are deciding on whether to continue playing. When do you decide it is that time? What is the process?
I don’t know. (laughs) It’s tough. I thought I was going to retire after we won the Stanley Cup back in 2007. I thought well what more do you want to do and I’m tired. And I don’t want to play hockey right now. That kind of thing. A lot of people didn’t understand that. A lot of hockey players will play until basically there’s no one that wants them to play anymore. Which is fine. I mean if you love to play why wouldn’t you go as long as you can. And to me, like I said there’s such a commitment and there are other things I’d like to do. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve experienced a lot of great things playing hockey. And that’s kind of the reason I’m thinking of retiring. I’d like to do other things. I played a lot of hockey over the years and had many great experiences. I guess to kind of give up on that seems strange.
If you would have retired and stayed retired the first time you would have missed so many opportunities, Winter Games Gold and so many other things. That must play into it as well.
It did a bit. When I decided to come back and play last year, and the Winter Games were this year, and I knew it was in Vancouver, I wanted to be there. It was everything I thought it would be and more.
I didn’t want to sell out our team or the players. You know I can’t commit to play NHL, which I had to do to play in the Winter Games, and not be really committed and ready to play. You know all year long. I can’t just say, “I’m here for the Games. Wake me up when they start.” For me it wouldn’t have been fun or good for anybody. So I had to make sure I was committed to the whole thing. And once I knew that of course I wanted to be part of the Winter Games. And maybe I’ll think a little bit about how this team looks. If I really felt we could compete for a Stanley Cup, it might sway my thoughts a bit, I guess.
You don’t want to play with Selanne another year?
Yeah. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with him a little more. Lisa: Teemu has to play first.
Isn’t he on the fence too?
Yeah. We’re both bad at making this decision.
When it is something you’ve done for so many years, it must be hard to walk away?
Yeah, as nice as it sounds to do other things and have free time. We are so use to being at the rink everyday.
Also your retirement is at such a young age compared to most people. It’s not 65.
Yeah. You can’t get into the retirement communities yet.
When I stopped playing before I thought I can ski and learn to surf and hang out and watch my kids do their thing. And I enjoyed all that, but also in the back of my head, which I didn’t think would’ve been an issue was I thought I needed to do something. Not just recreate. I mean I would’ve continued to try.
How did you become so environmentally conscious?
It was a gradual thing. I think being an athlete you’re always trying to eat right, stay healthy. I think the other part was living where we did—hiking, fishing and then moving to New York, New Jersey. It was so different. The air had color. I thought you weren’t supposed to see the air. It just didn’t seem good. It just gradually started that way. I think because I like to do so much outside. It would be nice to keep it as natural and pristine as we can.