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NHL Bloodlines: Jackson Nieuwendyk

Presented by Chevrolet


By Nick Greenizan

Penticton Vees forward Jackson Nieuwendyk was only four years old when his dad Joe retired from playing in the National Hockey League after a nearly 20-year career spent with five teams, so it’s no surprise that he doesn’t remember ever seeing his dad play.

But while his memory is foggy when it comes to seeing him on the ice – Joe was a member of the New Jersey Devils when his son was born, and then capped his career with one season in Toronto and two more with the Florida Panthers – Jackson, who grew up in the Dallas area, still saw plenty of the NHL as a kid and was old enough to remember it.

“I brought him around the locker room, but he was really young and doesn’t remember those things,” said Joe. “After I retired and was working with the [Dallas] Stars, I’d bring him down to the locker room so he could meet Sidney Crosby, or Pavel Datsyuk, Zdeno Chara – so he was around it.”

Jackson also fondly remembered attending the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, where his dad played in the alumni game before the Leafs and Red Wings squared off.

“Seeing that, watching him play at the Big House, that was pretty cool,” he said. “It was really special that my dad played in the NHL for a long time, and growing up, getting the chance to see things like that, it’s really cool. I definitely think it increased my love for the game.”

Jackson was also nine years old when his dad was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. A two-time Olympian, the elder Nieuwendyk won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2002, and is one of only 11 NHL players in league history to win Stanley Cups with three teams – Calgary in 1989, Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003. He finished his career with 1,126 points in 1,257 games.

Despite having one of the all-time greats for a dad, Jackson has always been one to forge his own identity, or “cut his own path,” as his dad said.

“He never really pushed me,” said Jackson. “I personally just always enjoyed [playing hockey]. He never said ‘You have to do this’ or ‘You should do it this way.’ He kind of let me do things on my own, so I think I really developed a love for it myself.”

“I think he enjoyed the sport right away and he had all his hockey buddies here in Dallas,” added Joe. “He played a little lacrosse, a little bit of soccer, but his passion was always hockey. There wasn’t a single day that he didn’t want to be at the rink.”

Jackson is in his second season with the Vees, who sit atop the BCHL with just three losses all season. Through 30 games this year, he has 13 goals and 12 assists. Like his dad, Jackson has also chosen the NCAA route. Joe played at Cornell University from 1984 to 1987, while Jackson will play for Canisius College next season in Buffalo, N.Y.

Both Nieuwendyks agreed that the college route was the best way to go.

“Jack is a bit of a late bloomer and I think he needed some time to develop,” said Joe. “The BCHL just seemed like the best path and a better fit for him [than other routes].”

“And now he’s committed to Canisius, so he gets to play hockey for four more years and isn’t that great?”

In Penticton, Jackson lives with another famous NHL family – the Niedermayers. Scott Niedermayer’s son Josh is also a member of the Vees. In fact, the team’s roster is peppered with NHL connections. In addition to Jackson and Josh, Beanie Richter – son of longtime New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter – is on the team, as is Mason Poolman, the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenceman, Tucker Poolman.

“It’s really cool,” said Jackson. “‘[The Niedermayers] are a great family and it’s cool that my family is friends with them, so when they come out to visit me, they stay here at the house, too. It was really easy moving here. It was a really good transition.”

Though he may have grown to love the sport on his own, without his dad’s influence, Jackson still knows where to go for advice, if ever he needs it.

“Nothing huge, but a lot of little stuff,” Jackson said, when asked when kind of hockey conversations he’ll have with his dad during the season. “[Mental] stuff or things like what to do in certain [on-ice] situations.”

Joe said he’s happy to lend advice when asked, though for the most part, he’s simply enjoying being a hockey parent – watching his son in-person on semi-regular trips to B.C. and watching online the rest of the time.

“I never say, ‘Well I did it this way’ or anything like that,” he explained. “He’s old enough to make his own decisions. So my wife and I, we’ve just been very supportive of him, and I think the same thing can be said for the other [NHL parents] whose kids are on the team. They’re all cutting their own path, and we’re just support dads now.”

“I’m loving the experience. In a lot of ways, I get more enjoyment out of watching my son play than I did as a player. It’s been very rewarding. And he knows that too – he knows we’re behind him 100 per cent of the time.”