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Sons of a Stanley Cup champion, ASU's Niedermayer brothers continue their dad's hockey legacy

College hockey has long been dominated by schools in the Northeast and Midwest. Warm-weather schools are seldom competitive, if they even field a team.

But less than a decade since moving up to the highest level of college hockey, Arizona State University has a Top 20 team, hoping to be one of 16 qualifiers for the NCAA Tournament.

Two players contributing to that success are a pair of brothers whose knack for hockey runs in their blood. Jackson Niedermayer is a junior at ASU. On the last Tuesday morning of January, he and his freshman brother, Josh, are running drills with their teammates at Mullett Arena in Tempe.

Jackson came to ASU from Southern California, in part because of the limited number of Division I hockey teams west of the Mississippi. Josh followed in his brother’s footsteps.

“I thought it was just like the perfect opportunity for me to come down here and play with him,” Josh said. “What they got going down here with the program and everything going for it right now, I think it’s just second to none.”

Jackson and Josh aren’t the first set of Niedermayers to play high-level hockey together. Their dad, Scott, is a Hall of Famer who played 18 seasons in the NHL. He played a handful of those seasons with his brother, Rob, winning the Stanley Cup side-by-side in 2007 for the Anaheim Ducks.

“[My dad] definitely put us on skates right away,” Josh said. “I think I was probably like three years old.”

Jackson and Josh went from tykes on skates, to playing Mini Sticks and shooting pucks in the backyard. Now 22 and 19 years old, Jackson said their dad is still a big help. 

“It’s nice to have around, obviously, having a dad that played, he gets it,” Jackson said. “He gets what you’re going through on a daily basis, whether you’re not playing and you’re hurt, you’re playing and you’re riding high or whatever it is, he’s always there if we need to talk to him.”

Because of their age difference, the boys weren’t usually on the same teams growing up, but they played a few games together in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHS), before Jackson got hurt. That’s why they feel especially blessed to play together now.

“We were actually paired up for a bit when I was back on defense at the start of the year and I think it was kind of just seamless,” Jackson said. “You kind of just know where he’s gonna be, you know what his tendencies are and it was kind of a seamless transition. So when we were back there together, it was pretty cool playing on the blue line with him.”

Both Niedermayers dream of winning a national championship in college, then going pro. In the meantime, they push each other to be better every day.

“He’s [my] little brother, but I mean he definitely does a lot more off the ice and probably commits himself a lot more too to it,” Jackson said. “I see that and it makes me wanna work a bit harder.”

While they come from the same family and play the same sport, the Niedermayers are completely opposite people.

“Jackson’s kind of the goofball and he’s always looking to have a good time,” Head Coach Greg Powers said. “He lightens the mood in any room he walks into. Josh is very serious [and] quiet. He’s more introverted. The balance between the two of them is comical. It’s funny I think to everybody and it improves the mood of our locker room.”

Those stark personality differences transfer onto the ice. Jackson is a forward, trying to score goals for the Sun Devils, while Josh is a defenseman, trying to keep the other team from scoring.

“Jackson is a really talented, dynamic player that can rip pucks and fly up and down the wing,” Powers said. “Josh is just a steady, stay-at-home, hardworking ‘D.’”

Other than their last names and somewhat similar skating techniques, Powers said you almost wouldn’t be able to tell that they’re related.

“If you could combine the two’s personalities and their best traits as a player, you’d have a really special player,” Powers said. “They’re both special players, but you’d have a really special one.”

Powers said he sees them encouraging each other on and off the ice.

“Josh is, like any freshman, gonna make some freshman mistakes in the moment, and Jackson’s been there and he’s done that and he’s a good leader,” Powers said. “You can see him pick his brother up right away when he makes a mistake, and I’m sure that means a lot to Josh.”

Powers has been on ASU’s coaching staff for more than a decade. In that time, the team has attracted a handful of players who came from NHL families. On this year’s team alone, there’s the Niedermayers; defenseman Anthony Dowd, the son of Jim Dowd, who played 16 seasons in the NHL; and forward Lukas Sillinger whose dad and brother both played professional hockey. But Powers said ASU has never recruited a player based on their last name.

“Players talk to other players. I think that’s how it happens most,” Powers said. “It’s also a great place for families to come watch their kids play in the winter and I think that has a lot to do with it as well.”

It could also be the way the coaching staff encourages their individuality.

“We believe that to develop players, you wanna coach ‘em and you wanna improve habits and detail,” Powers said, "but you also have to let them be themselves and we definitely do that here."

This year, the Sun Devils could break the program record for wins in a season, which is 22, set during the 2019-2020 season.

“I think of just all the moments on the ice off the ice, we’ve had a ton,” Jackson said. "It’s been cool, the journey to lead here and kind of play at this level together, it’s something not many brothers get to do."


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Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.