They look as if they should be sitting on a couch with Courteney Cox every Thursday night, sipping latte and complaining about all the boring clothes in their closets. Between the two of them they have just one damaged tooth and no noticeable facial scars. They are polite, articulate and Gap-ad handsome. If they weren't playing in the NHL, they would be posing for those big pictures that hang on hair-salon walls.
So far no one has mistaken the Niedermayer brothers for the Hanson brothers, those maniacal siblings in the movie Slap Shot, and you can bet no one will. Scott and Rob Niedermayer are two of the bright young stars in the NHL, but the only thing outrageous about them is their talent. They are the soft-spoken sons of a country doctor and a retired schoolteacher, and while they enjoy life in the NHL, they sure do miss Mom and Dad.
Scott is a 22-year-old offensive defense-man for the reigning Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils. Rob, who turned 21 on Dec. 28, is a first-line center for the Florida Panthers, the team with the second-best record in the NHL. They are image boosters for a league that can only wonder why Carol and Dr. Bob Niedermayer of Cranbrook, B.C., had to stop after just two sons. Didn't they ever hear of the Sutters?
"They're good kids, but they were typical boys growing up," says Carol. "Believe me, they got into plenty of mischief."
We believe you, Mom, but could you give us an example?
"Well, we have a rumpus room in our house," says Carol. "And the boys would go down there and take all the cushions off the chesterfield, pile them in the middle of the room and jump on them."
Ah, the rumpus room. Isn't that where all the trouble started for NHL ultrabad-boy Bob Probert? Fortunately, the Niedermayers survived the mean streets of Cranbrook (pop. 17,000) and the ruinous temptations of the rumpus room, and now they appear to be following parallel courses into hockey stardom. Scott, in his fourth full season in the NHL, was an integral part of the Devils' storybook finish last spring, and through Sunday he led New Jersey defensemen in scoring, with 15 points in 36 games. Rob, in his third season, had 14 goals and 28 points in 37 games at week's end, and he is one of the reasons the Panthers were 25-10-2. Some people are surprised by Rob's sudden emergence, but they shouldn't be. If Scott does something, Rob has to give it a try, too. "The way I look at it is, my brother had his coming-out party last year. Now it's my turn," he says.
Rob had a close-up look at Scott's success one August morning. Rob, who, like Scott, still lives at home in the off-season, was munching on a bowl of cereal and watching TV when he noticed a new item in the living room. "I just looked next to me, and there it was, the Stanley Cup," says Rob. "That was an interesting way to start the day."
Each player on the championship team gets to spend a little time with the Cup, and Cranbrook was the trophy's last stop before returning to the Hall of Fame in Toronto. "It was such a special feeling to see Scott with that Cup in his hands," says Carol. "We've been very lucky, but our one wish now is to see Rob experience that same sense of accomplishment."
Rob has already experienced a strong sense of accomplishment this season. This has been, after all, the year he realized he could play in the NHL. In 1994-95 Rob was Florida's fourth-line center, and he often played just two or three shifts a game. He saw action in all 48 games of the lockout-shortened season, but he had just four goals and six assists, painful numbers for a player who was selected fifth in the 1993 draft. At the end of the season the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported, "Niedermayer has shown flashes of brilliance but has overall been a bust."