From Hockey Superstar to Freshwater Champion: An interview with Scott Niedermayer

What inspired you to get involved with conservation work in your retirement from hockey?
I think the biggest inspiration is growing up the way I did in Cranbrook, BC. My parents exposed my brothers and I to doing things outside. Whether it was skiing, hiking, fishing or camping, we were always getting out and enjoying the natural beauty that was all around us in BC.  As I got a little older and began to go places with hockey, I started to realize just how special our province is. Whether it was the clean water we have or the wildlife you could see, being away from BC started to drive home that this doesn’t exist everywhere, and that we needed to be smart about how we take care of these places, so they don’t disappear.
Why did you choose WWF-Canada?
After my retirement, I looked at a number of opportunities that could be available to me. I ended up sitting down with WWF-Canada and found I appreciated their style and approach – that it fit with my personality.
I have four kids now, with the possibility of grandkids in the future, and I’d love for all of them to have the opportunity to see a grizzly bear or a river full of wild salmon. And especially here in BC, we have the opportunity to make that happen.  I know I enjoyed it as a kid, and I guess selfishly, I would like future generations to have the same opportunity as me. I love being outside, being active and enjoying the wildlife we have here in B.C.

(c)Jenn Walton

What do you hope to accomplish by lending your voice to WWF’s work?
There are a few things I’d like to accomplish as Freshwater Ambassador for WWF-Canada.  I really believe that people are becoming more aware and more educated about conservation.  And I believe they are taking it seriously. One of my goals would be to see that people continue to feel that protecting B.C’s special places is important. I’d like to keep people to really feel the importance of WWF’s work and what it offers to our society.
Another one of my goals would be to see that animals like the grizzly bear that are under pressure from loss of habitat continue to have healthy populations. Healthy species are a big indicator of the health of our environment overall.  Grizzlies are still around in the Kootenays where I grew up and, if they are, that’s a good indicator that we’ve done things the right way.
What were your impressions of the Great Bear trip?
I’ve never been there, so I didn’t know what to expect. Whether it was the forest, scenery, ocean, rivers or animals, it was very impressive. One highlight for me was standing in a little stream and having thousands of salmon trying to swim past my ankles to get upstream to spawn. There were salmon dying all around us along the banks, and you could see where bears, wolves and birds were all feeding on them. I’ve never seen anything like it before.  And of course, it’s an amazing experience to be up close to a creature like a grizzly bear.
What did you think of your first Shoreline Cleanup at Locarno Beach in Vancouver?
As a spokesperson, I really like to get into the work I’m representing and actually do something.  So it was a great thing for me to be out there filling my bag of garbage at the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
It was a beautiful day to be outside on Locarno Beach in Vancouver. We also had a lot of fun.  The garbage I came across was pretty predictable – lots of little wrappers and other kinds of plastic that doesn’t break down very quickly – something that we need to get away from using.
Any lessons from a long and successful hockey career that you can bring to conservation efforts?
One is that persistence does pay off. I was fortunate that happened for me in winning a championship, here and there. But it takes a lot of work from your teammates and your coach and all involved.  You also need to believe in what you’re doing and believe you can accomplish it. A strong belief in what you’re doing gives you the energy to do the work that may seem monotonous or challenging.
Additional thoughts…
Another connection that has brought me to where I am is that, as an athlete, you’re always trying to take care of your body and do what you need to do to stay healthy. So if you want to perform as an athlete, you have to take care of your body, you have to eat clean healthy food, and that comes from having a clean and healthy planet. That, combined with growing up where I did, and having great outdoor experiences, are two of the reasons that I put the importance I do on WWF’s conservation work.
(c) Jenn Walton

Scott Niedermayer at a Shoreline Cleanup in BC last week