Q & A with Scott Niedermayer

(Jon Didier Photography)

Before a photographer snapped a picture of Scott Niedermayer’s family, the former star Ducks defenseman directed a stern, yet calm order to one of his four sons.

“Sit up straight,” Niedermayer said.

For 18 years, Niedermayer was looked to as a leader on his teams. Now he’s mainly the leader of his family. That family, which includes wife Lisa, and sons Logan, 12, Jackson, 11, Joshua, 8, and Luke, 3, has been grateful that Niedermayer is now away from the game. They follow his direction. They get to spend more time all together, as a family, said Niedermayer, a Newport Beach resident.

Wednesday evening was a time for them to be together. The family gathered at the Ronald McDonald House of Orange County in Orange before attending the Ducks’ hockey game against San Jose at Honda Center.

The Niedermayers received a tour of the house. Then they posed for a portrait in a cozy lobby. Nearby on a wall there were photos of families that have received help from the McDonald house.

Niedermayer smiled with Luke on his lap. The four-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist says he is enjoying these days with his family. Of course, there’s a big part of him that misses the game, he admits, but he is happy to have more time with his wife and four sons.

The 38-year-old Niedermayer also has time for charity work. His family volunteered to be honorary chairs of Sunday’s Walk for Kids at Honda Center.

The event is a 5K walk that benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California and the services they provide. There are also walk events at Exposition Park in Los Angeles, Shoreline Park in Long Beach and Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga.

The Niedermayers want to do their part because the Ronald McDonald House helps families who need a home away from home when their child is sick or injured at a hospital nearby. The McDonald house in Orange is near Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

Niedermayer said his family has not had a direct experience with the place, but his wife’s cousin did use the McDonald house in Canada.

“It’s a great charity and they do great work that is very important,” Niedermayer said. “They provide a place to stay for families when their children are sick. That’s not a fun time obviously. To have something like this that takes care of at least some of their issues they have to go through, I would imagine that it would be a great thing.”

Niedermayer said Kevin Starkey, vice president of operations for Honda Center, asked him to help with the charity and Niedermayer, “jumped at the chance.” Niedermayer remains involved with the Ducks in a management-type role, he said. His time with the Ducks is flexible and allows his schedule to open up for coaching his sons’ hockey teams, or driving them to soccer practice. Or walking for charity at Honda Center this Sunday as part of Team Niedermayer.

It’s a different life for sure than being on the ice, but Niedermayer is cool with it. So is his wife.

“It’s great to have him home,” Lisa said. “It was a big change for all of us. We’ve adjusted and it’s great.”

Niedermayer answered a few questions while at the McDonald house Wednesday night and before the Ducks’ victory over the Sharks.


Question: Do you miss the game?

Answer: I think you’re always going to miss it. It was a big part of my life for a long time. I was fortunate to have a lot great experiences throughout my career. But at the same time I’m now getting a chance to do some things that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to do. A lot of it is joining my kids in what they do.

There are times I miss it, but that will probably be forever. It’s a pretty special thing and a tight bond you have with your teammates. You’re with them every day. I do miss it, but I’m enjoying what I’m doing now.


Q: Do you still follow the Ducks and are you bummed about their season?

A: I still work for the team as in a management kind of position. They were excited before the season with the thought to get into the playoffs. But the start they had made it hard for them to achieve that. They played like many thought they would later in the season. But it was a too-little-too-late kind of thing. There’s always next year.


Q: What do you think of the Kings?

A: They have a good team. They have some young players that have improved and grown. They are in a dogfight now. The parity in the league is as great as I can remember. You can’t have any bad stretches.

But I don’t know if a Duck fan is allowed to say anything good about that team.

It’s a fun rivalry. It was fun to be a part of it. I had some experience with that before when I was with New Jersey and of course against the Rangers. It makes for some intense, fun games.


Q: What are some of the differences in your life now that you are away from the game?

A: It’s a big difference. Before, once the season starts you’re committed to being at the rink every day. There are no weekends, no long weekends or spring break with the kids. There’s an occasional day off. Your plane lands at two in the morning and the coach will say take a day off and we’ll see you the next day. But that is really it.

It’s very demanding, mentally and physically, of your time.

It’s totally opposite now. I am doing a little work with the Ducks. There’s flexibility of when and what I do. I’m in charge of my schedule now, which I never was before. So that was a challenge figuring out how to make it work. I always had someone telling me where to go, what to do, what to bring, what to wear. Now I’m on my own. But I’m enjoying it: Helping coach all my kids’ hockey teams, taking them to their soccer games and going on weekend trips. And, being able to go on a spring break or on a vacation with the family and enjoy that. I was really fortunate throughout my hockey career to have some success. Now I’m enjoying doing some different things.


Q: What advice would you give kids who plays sports even your own?

A: You’ve got to really enjoy it because to put the work in and the commitment that it takes to be the best is just different. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing it’s going to be very hard to do it. You hope that they enjoy it and then you tell them it takes hard work to do it, but it’s that way with almost everything. Hopefully they hear it.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen