It sticks out like a sore thumb among the German luxury cars and towering SUVs in the players’ parking lot at Honda Center. But for years Scott Niedermayer has driven to work in an electric car.
These days it’s a dark cherry Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. With respect to Niedermayer’s passion for environmental responsibility, the Ducks captain was selected as one of a very small number of customers able to lease this special car from Honda.
But for years Niedermayer drove a Toyota Prius hybrid, which he’s is now selling after falling in love with the Honda. It’s the ride in which Niedermayer used to pick up carpool partners that included brother Rob Niedermayer and fellow future Hall-of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger (both now former Ducks). And pulling up in that gently quiet purring vehicle – hardly a typical choice for a world-renowned professional athlete – hasn’t escaped some teasing from teammates.
“There were a few jokes made at different times, but I’ve had it for awhile and they kind of lose their ammunition,” Niedermayer says with a soft laugh. “When you’re in a locker room, there isn’t much that doesn’t get joked about.”
Soon it stopped being much of a joke and just another way other teammates followed Niedermayer’s lead. “George [Parros] is driving one now and bought a hybrid for his wife,” Niedermayer says. “These guys are a little more knowledgeable about stuff now.”
The choice of transportation is just one of the myriad ways Niedermayer does his part to protect the environment, something his wife Lisa has seen at home for years. “I buy our kids [four young sons] toys and he goes crazy because he sees this plastic toy and says, ‘That’s really good for Mother Nature,’” Lisa laughs. “He’s always been passionate about it. If there is a cereal box he finds in the garbage, he’ll take it out and put it in the recycle bin. He’ll take all the recyclables to a center with the kids and put the money in a savings account for them.
Scott’s preference for organic foods and other materials is prevalent in the family’s home. “Everything is organic in our house,” Lisa says. “We’ve had an organic lawn [free of traditional fertilizers and pesticides] for years. He shops at Whole Foods constantly. It’s his favorite place. He goes there all the time and they all know him in there. But that’s because he’s in there all the time, not necessarily because of hockey.”
|"I buy our kids toys and he goes crazy because he sees this plastic toy and says, ‘That’s really good for Mother Nature,’” Lisa laughs. “He’s always been passionate about it. |
But Lisa isn’t necessarily crazy about all of her husband’s efforts to stay environmentally conscious, like his insistence on putting organic sheets [made from natural fibers] on their bed. “We were exfoliated the first night we slept in them,” she says with a smile and a roll of the eyes. “I’m like, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever had to sleep in.” We’ve found some good ones now, but the first ones were not so good.”
During discussions about a home the Niedermayers are building back in their native British Columbia, Lisa had to put her foot down when Scott wanted to include composting toilets. “I drew the line there,” she says with a chuckle. I said, ‘Maybe in the guest room.’”
“Yeah,” Scott says, “I don’t think she’s going to let me pull that off. But I’ve tried to read a lot about low-energy and low-impact building. It’s interesting, there are so many things out there now that in the last five years it’s become a big business. I definitely have an interest in that, and if we ever get this house built back home, I’d like to incorporate those ideas.”
The location of the home won’t be far from where Scott and brother Rob grew up, a place where Scott first developed a passion for planet Earth. “It’s been a gradual thing that kind of happened growing up where we did in Canada,” says Niedermayer. “There is a lot of natural beauty, pristine lakes and rivers.
“Growing up, our parents had us outside doing things all the time, whether it was sports, fishing, hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing in the winter. It was a great place to do it, and there are endless amounts of that in every direction. I’m doing it now with my kids, going back to the same lakes that we hiked into as kids. That’s been kind of neat.”
|“It’s been a gradual thing that kind of happened growing up where we did in Canada,” says Niedermayer of his love of nature. “There is a lot of natural beauty, pristine lakes and rivers. Growing up, our parents had us outside doing things all the time. ” |
Adds Lisa, “We camp all the time. We hike up to the mountains with the kids, stay in tents and the whole thing. He loves it, he loves the outdoors. Everything about it.”
The fact that Niedermayer remains one of the game’s best-conditioned athletes at the age of 36 can be partially credited to his switch to a more organic diet midway through his career. “As an athlete if you want to perform well, you want to eat the right things, make sure you’re healthy and ready to perform,” he says. “As I got older, I would read things and gradually learn more and more. I’m still doing that.”
Niedermayer, hardly known to be overly outspoken, has lent some quiet support over the years for some environmental causes. In 2007 he signed his name to a letter sent to the Chicago City Council in protest of their planned repeal on the ban of foie gras in the city. (Foie gras is prepared by force-feeding ducks or geese large quantities of grain and fat, after which their livers become engorged and are sold as a delicacy.)
“Some people got in touch with my agent and I agreed to support what they were trying to do,” Niedermayer says. “I’m not a member of PETA or anything. I eat meat, but I take seriously how food is raised and what you’re putting in your body.”
Niedermayer has also lent his name to a fight against the construction of a ski resort on the Jumbo Glacier in the scenic East Kootenay region of British Columbia, not far from his hometown of Cranbrook. The plans for the resort, which have been in the works for more than two decades, have it constructed in one of the few remaining untouched areas in the Purcell Mountains.
“The things I’ve gotten involved with have been things where people have come to me for help,” Niedermayer says. “That’s how it’s gone so far, but maybe down the road when I’m not playing hockey, I’ll have more time to get involved. Right now my focus is on being a dad and a hockey player. Maybe when there is more free time to pursue that, I will.”
Go ahead, call him a “tree hugger” if you want. “I’ve never hugged a tree,” Niedermayer laughs. “But I don’t care if people use that term. I appreciate nature in all different ways, whether it’s the mountains or the ocean. If that makes me a tree hugger, that’s fine with me.”