Niederreiter mentoring Winnipeg youth hockey team

With over 800 games of NHL experience to draw from, Nino Niederreiter is providing mentorship to local youth through the True North Youth Foundation.

Niederreiter mentoring Winnipeg youth hockey team

Feature photo: X / @TNYouthFDN

Nino Niederreiter is sharing his longstanding love of hockey with the youth of Winnipeg.

When the opportunity arose for the Jets forward to contribute through the True North Youth Foundation, Niederreiter was quick to accept. In partnering with the Jets’ charitable arm, Niederreiter jumped at the chance to mentor a group of local hockey players from the U13 Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy.

“It was a very special, unique moment, being able to meet with these kids, and enjoy hockey together,” said the 31-year-old winger. “It was nice to see the smiles on their faces.”  

Niederreiter, who offers over 800 games of NHL experience, also donated equipment to each player on the U13 team. He will continue to spend time with the kids on and off the ice throughout the NHL season.

The Swiss-born winger, who joined the Jets after a trade from the Nashville Predators in February of last season, quickly became eager to make a difference with the young players and the program itself.

The academy is one of three core programs run by the True North Youth Foundation, and its main goal as a play-based program is to help increase attendance and graduation rates in socially and economically challenged schools throughout Winnipeg.

Made possible through the work of many volunteers, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy assists over 700 students throughout the school year, offering weekly hockey programming from Grade 4 onwards.

“It’s a special feeling to be able to connect with the kids, who find themselves in unfortunate situations. I do remember back home in Switzerland, there were underprivileged kids too.

“In some cases, they had to stop playing hockey because it was too expensive. I never forgot that, so this is very meaningful for me.”  

One particular participant profoundly affected Niederreiter.

“A kid that I met, he didn’t speak, but he understands everything. He came to me all the time and if he needed water or help tying up his skates, he wanted me to help him. To see how much that meant to him and how much it meant to him to play hockey it was wonderful to see that.

“I don’t know if he is able to speak, so it made me wonder if there is a voice behind there maybe he is afraid to talk. But I saw him on the ice, trying his hardest, wanting to score a goal and smiling it struck me pretty hard.”

Moments such as those were a welcome reminder, Niederreiter noted, of hockey’s ability to unite people from all walks of life.

“It is a team sport and with that, you learn the importance of being part of a team and the respect you have for everyone who plays the game.

“This program teaches those lessons, which is something these kids can carry with them throughout their lives. What you learn on the ice can relate to the outside world, to be respectful to one another and take care of each other.”

Niederreiter is looking forward to spending more quality time with the kids in the coming weeks and months.

Whatever questions they have, the NHL veteran will be happy to answer them.

“The kids were pretty shy the first time. But when they got out on the ice, you could see how happy they were. It was cool to see that.”

It was yet another moment that reminded Niederreiter, who proudly earned silver twice while representing his country at the IIHF World Championship, of his early hockey days growing up in Switzerland.

“When I was young, being around the pros on the team in my city meant so much to us. Being able to do that now I know how it feels for them because I had that same experience.”

Niederreiter will continue to relish each chance he has to interact with his new teammates.

“These kids are going through some tough times and challenges. I hope this gives the kids a different perspective on life, that they can enjoy hockey and all the great things it can give you.”