Originally published in the Cranbrook Daily Townsman & Kimberley Daily Bulletin (Aug. 11, 2014)
Scott and Rob Niedermayer sit side-by-side at a table in Western Financial Place awaiting a long line of excited young hockey players and adoring fans.
For hours on a sunny Friday afternoon in August, they sit at that same table, signing autograph after autograph; taking photo after photo. It’s repetitive and monotonous, yet the two brothers sign every hat, photo, hockey stick and sweater that is passed their way.
It’s a small gesture for two former National Hockey League stars, but the weight it carries with each starstruck child is immeasurable. It also happens to exemplify just how much the Cranbrook community means to the Niedermayer brothers.
“The community itself, where we grew up, we had some great hockey coaches, soccer coaches, teachers and just so many people involved in your childhood growing up,” Scott said during a brief lull in the autograph line. “You combine all that together and I guess that’s the definition of home.”
While Scott returns to Cranbrook during the summer months between his regular duties as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, Rob has made Cranbrook his permanent home since retiring from the game of professional hockey at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
Being back in Cranbrook has allowed Rob to keep closer eye on the Niedermayer Family Fund, an initiative the brothers kickstarted in 2012.
The brothers worked together on the ice with the Anaheim Ducks, helping to champion the Southern California club to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007. Now, retired from the game, they’re hoping to champion a variety of off-ice challenges at home in Southern B.C. through the Niedermayer Family Fund.
“We grew up here and we know how good this community was to us,” Rob said Friday afternoon. “It was always something we had in mind to start. It was just something we thought we could give back and help the community.”
The fund, which is administered through the Cranbrook & District Community Foundation (CDCF), contributes charitable donations annually to a variety of local organizations. With the assistance of the CDCF, the Niedermayers select causes they want to contribute to each year, allowing them flexibility and ensuring they can help in a variety of areas within the Cranbrook community.
Though they continue to work together outside the game of hockey, both Rob and Scott laughed when asked if there was a future in the game featuring the two of them together in an off-ice capacity.
“It was easy on the ice,” Scott said with a laugh. “Neither of us was in charge. The coach was in charge, we just went out and did our job. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know if we have a good synergy or not. Who knows. Anything is possible.”
“We both love hockey, it’s done a lot for both of us,” Rob added. “We’re blessed to be where we are. Who knows what the future may hold. We’re too young to not do something.”
In the meantime, Rob and Scott Niedermayer will continue to put on their hockey school; they’ll continue to sign autographs for fans; and they’ll continue to give back through the Niedermayer Family Fund.
Best of all, they’ll continue to do it right here at home in Cranbrook.