Hockey for Penticton Vees rookie Jackson Niedermayer truly is a family affair.
Not surprisingly, the son of four-time Stanley Cup champ Scott Niedermayer, who also has a pair of Olympic gold medals and a World Championship trophy on the mantle, the 17-year-old has lived and breathed the sport for most of his life — and loves it.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself, it was a blessing,” said Jackson about his experiences growing up with three relatives, including uncle Rob Niedermayer and cousin Jason Strudwick, all playing in the National Hockey League at the same time.
His first and fondest hockey memory as a kid?
“Probably ‘07,” he replied quickly. “I was six years old and my dad won the cup. It was pretty cool just experiencing that and being able to do it with him and all my brothers and my family. It was awesome.”
Scott was a defenseman and captain, and Rob was the alternate captain and forward on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who defeated the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 at home June 6, 2007 at the Honda Centre.
“It was cool just being around my dad’s teammates and just kind of growing up like that and having those guys to reference off of and talk to, just going into locker rooms after games and seeing my dad.”
And it was those trips to the dressing rooms that really motivated him to follow in his father’s skates.
“You know, talking to the guys that have been through it before when you’re younger pushes you to where you want to be,” said Jackson. “You see how hard they work and you work that much harder when you’re young because you look up to them.”
Checking in at six feet, 194 pounds, the left winger scored 23 goals and added 19 assists in the 34 games he played in the midget Tier 1 Elite Hockey League for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks last season.
His own favourite hockey memory came that season as well with the club tying for third place in the U.S. nationals.
“A team from California, nobody really expected us to do that well,” he said.
As to why he and his family, who have moved to the Peach City with him and now call Penticton home, decided on the Vees, Jackson said: “Just the history here and the coaching and everything, is second to none. Where they put their guys on to the next level, it’s the best there is. There’s no place I’d rather be than here.”
He added the transition to the B.C. Hockey League and moving to a new city for the first time has been made a lot easier thanks to the help of the Vees staff and senior players.
“They’ve really did a very good job of bringing everyone in and making us feel at home and it’s nice to have a group that you can always lean on in the dressing room,” said Jackson, who is in his senior year at Penticton Secondary School.
And about any pressure relating to his all star family hockey background?
“I guess there is some pressure, people would say, but I don’t look at it like that,” he said.
“I just play my game and it’s just the name on the back of a sweater, that’s all.
“It’s not really that big of a deal to me I just look forward to playing and working hard do my best for the team and try and do everything I can to help us get some wins here this season but the pressure, I don’t feel it that much.”
Looking ahead to his future in the sport, Jackson just takes things one day at a time.
“Just keep it simple, looking short term, not long term, because I know things will come, keep working hard and things will come your way,” he said.
Vees head coach and president Fred Harbinson likes what he sees in his new recruit, both on and off the ice.
“I think first off he’s a great kid he seems like he’s a well rounded individual and does well in school,” said Harbinson.
“The one thing I can see, meeting his family, meeting his father, they’re very grounded people and that has definitely been passed on to Jackson.
“He knows that he has to earn everything himself and he wants it that way and any pressure that’s there he’ll deal with it.”
Harbinson compared the rookie to Vee’s sophomore Lukas Sillinger this time last year. He also started with the club as a 17 year old.
“He’s (Jackson) got lot of talent, has great hands as far as his hockey ability goes,” said Harbinson.
“He’ll learn how to play the junior game, a faster pace and he has the ability when he gets going.”
He added it will be a little tougher for the Vees’ younger players right now with only three 20-year-olds on the playing roster and forwards captain Massimo Rizzo and Cassidy Bowes out indefinitely due to injuries.
“In the past we probably had a little more depth up front and we put the younger guys with the older guys and right now we’ve got a lot of youth in the bottom half of our forward group,” said Harbinson.
“So it’s a real learning curve for some of these kids but Jackson has the ability to do it and we have all the confidence he’ll get there.”
Heading into the annual Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack this week the Vees have a record of one win and a pair of losses.
They dropped their first game of the season 5-1 in Langley, won 4-2 over Cowichan Valley Capitals and lost 4-3 to Victoria Grizzlies in last weekend’s stops on Vancouver Island.
The Showcase, which is a proving grounds for players hoping to catch the eyes of the many hockey scouts who will be in attendance during the four days, begins for the Vees with a 10 a.m. match against the Merritt Centennials Thursday and a 4 p.m. game Friday against the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Each team will play two games with the results counting in the regular season standings.
Penticton will then travel to Merritt Sept. 28 for a game there before returning to the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday, Sept. 29 for the home opener against the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs at 6 p.m.
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