A whirlwind trip to California came to an end this week for a group of Penticton minor hockey players who brought home a gear bag full of memories and a silver medal.
The atom development team had an opportunity to play in a tournament where they finished second, but the real highlight was last Sunday night.
The kids were in the stands at the Honda Centre in Anaheim, Calif., to witness a special jersey retirement ceremony for their assistant coach, Scott Niedermayer, whose son, Luke, is also a member of their team.
“It was so amazing to see Scott’s jersey being retired. We are so lucky to have him on our team,” said Amy Polvere, one of the Penticton players after the ceremony. “The tournament was really cool and (we) got to play some U.S.A. teams. We had so much fun and we won silver.”
Added teammate Rhys Haddad: “It was a good opportunity and a lot of fun. It was very special to watch Scott’s jersey being raised into the rafters.”
Niedermayer, who moved to Penticton from California last year, stood at centre ice with his wife Lisa, sons Luke, Jackson (who plays for the B.C. Hockey League Vees) and Josh (Okanagan Hockey Academy) watched as the No. 27 jersey was hoisted aloft.
His sweater joined those of previous Ducks (No. 8) Teemu Selänne and (No. 9) Paul Kariya, who both spoke during the ceremony.
This was Niedermayer’s third jersey retirement. The others were by the National Hockey League New Jersey Devils and Western Hockey League Kamloops Blazers.
Despite it being the third time, Niedermayer said, prior to leaving for California, it was “humbling” and “an honour.”
According to Penticton player Peter Forbes, whose father Peter Forbes is the team’s head coach, there was a couple of parts of the ceremony he really enjoyed.
“I liked it when they played the song Natural (Imagine Dragons) when they showed his highlights. I also liked the video of his fight where he kicked the jersey, everyone was laughing.”
That video was of a 1999 fight between Niedermayer and the New York Rangers’ Valeri Kamenski, whose jersey wound up over Niedermayer’s head. He pulled it off and kicked it with his skate.
“I thought it was a wonderful experience. It was lots of fun to bond with my teammates,” said team member Joshua Ouellette. “The rules were a little different in the U.S. hockey games. It is really neat that Luke is on our team and his dad is Scott Niedermayer.”
For coach Peter Forbes, who described the trip as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and worked with the kids on their many fundraisers for the trip, it was a dream come true.
“It was really special being at Scott’s jersey retirement and then having him join us on the bench for our final game against the Junior Reign from Anaheim,” said Forbes. “It was truly a great experience for me and everyone was so happy with the trip. The kids had a fun tournament and really played their best leaving it all out on the ice.”
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