B.C.'s captain Scott Niedermayer keeps his cool on the eve of the Olympics
Of course, it’s much more than that for a B.C. boy who’s been asked to play a leading role in the most anticipated event of the 2010 Olympics in his home province. But at the very crux of it, Scott Niedermayer’s visit to Vancouver for the men’s Olympic hockey tournament is all about taking care of business. And anyone who knows anything about the 36-year-old captain of Team Canada is well aware that Niedermayer is in the business of winning international hockey tournaments. In fact, no one in the history of the sport has won on more—or bigger—stages than the quiet, unassuming superstar defenceman from Cranbrook.
From the Memorial Cup (1992) to four Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003, and 2007) to international wins at the World Junior Championship (1991), World Championship (2004), World Cup (2004), and the Olympics (2002), Niedermayer is the only man on the planet to have won them all. And now, in the twilight of his legendary career—in what will almost surely be his last tournament in international hockey—Niedermayer returns home to lead his country into battle in what many hockey observers believe has the potential to be the greatest international tournament ever played.
However, despite his low-key approach, this is anything but just another road trip for Niedermayer. Although he has plied his trade professionally for 19 years in out-of-the-way hockey homes—first in New Jersey and for the past five seasons in Anaheim—the smooth-skating defenceman is well aware of what’s ahead of him and his 22 Team Canada teammates trying to strike gold as the home team in the showcase event of the games. And the significance of being a British Columbian and getting the chance to be the leader of this high-profile group isn’t lost on Niedermayer.
“Obviously, you look at it and you think, ”˜Yeah, that would be a pretty unique experience, being on such a big stage like the Olympics,’ something that everybody knows about and something everybody watches growing up as a kid,” Niedermayer tells the Georgia Straight in a telephone interview from Nashville, where his Anaheim Ducks were taking on the Predators in National Hockey League action. “So to be part of that so close to home is going to be pretty unique. Maybe the full extent of it won’t be realized until you’re in it or you’ve gone through it looking back at it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. You keep in mind everything that it’s all about: close to home, playing for Team Canada in hockey, which is always an honour. And it’s a thrill being part of the Olympic Games—which for any athlete is a great accomplishment, to be an Olympian—so you just add all that up together and it’s going to be a special time.”
Although regularly referred to as a Cranbrook native, Niedermayer was actually born in Edmonton and spent the first three years of his life as the son of the only doctor in the remote northern mining outpost of Cassiar, B.C., which was located not far from the Yukon border but no longer exists. It wasn’t until Niedermayer was a toddler that his family made the move to the Kootenays and his journey to hockey stardom began.
A father of four boys himself now, ranging in age from one to 10, Niedermayer, one of 35 athletes with ties to British Columbia on the 206-member 2010 Canadian Olympic team, remains proud of his Canadian roots and his strong ties to one of the prettiest parts of the province. And it’s important to him that his sons understand the bond he has with B.C.