It was Labor Day weekend at a squirts hockey tournament when Scott Niedermayer had a good chuckle.
Times have indeed changed, he thought to himself.
"I look across to the other bench and there's Rob Blake with his son," Niedermayer said. "I was behind the bench with mine, so that was kind of funny."
Niedermayer, like Blake, retired after last season, and while the NHL has lost him, the game has not.
"I'm at the rink as much as I've ever had, with our three boys who are all on different hockey teams," Niedermayer told ESPN.com on Thursday. "Doing a lot of driving and moving a lot of pucks around on the ice for them."
His hockey-playing sons are 11, 9 and 6 and there's a 2-year-old in the bullpen. Niedermayer is enjoying being a full-time dad again.
But he's also been working for the Ducks, or at least trying to figure out what his role could be with the organization. He took in the Ducks' rookie tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, last month, as well as a couple of preseason games for Anaheim. Ducks GM Bob Murray is eager to find Niedermayer a role with the organization.
"Bob Murray asked me if I could do things here and there," Niedermayer said. "He really wants to just expose me to every part of it. It's a good opportunity for me to answer the question, 'Do I want to do this for real, or not?'"
There's a trip in the works where Niedermayer would go down and work with the team's AHL defensemen.
"So I will be doing some work for the team, but you probably wouldn't call it a full-time position," Niedermayer said. "Hopefully I'll be able to help out and, at the same time, explore and experience that side of the game to see if it is something that I want to put time and effort into down the road. So hopefully it's good for both sides. I think it's a good opportunity."
He was scouting a game Tuesday night in Los Angeles when the Kings pummeled his former teammates 8-3. It's a good thing he didn't have his equipment with him right then and there.
"At a moment like that, your competitive nature kind of takes over and you wish you could be out there helping them," Niedermayer said. "I don't think that will ever go away."
He probably shouldn't even joke about that. After all, he retired in 2007 only to come back. But the 37-year-old sounds more resolute with his decision this time around. In fact, some NHL teams phoned his agent Kevin Epp of Titan Sports Management this summer wondering if Niedermayer would reconsider his decision. The answer was no.
"There were a few teams that just wanted to at least inquire," Niedermayer said. "But I told Kevin that I had made my decision. I appreciated the interest, but the decision had been made and wasn't going to change."
So, it's definite-definite this time?
"Well, yeah," Niedermayer said. "In '07, I was three years younger. It was a year after we won the Stanley Cup and I couldn't really see what the next challenge was. But as time went on, I started to see that again; where as this time, after playing three more years, it just feels like the right time. I feel that way right now."
There's certainly nothing left for him to play for. There has been no greater winner than Niedermayer: four Stanley Cups, two Olympics gold medals, world junior gold, men's world championships gold, a Memorial Cup (and tournament MVP), a World Cup of Hockey championship and a Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy to boot. He's got a big trophy case, and yet no big ego to with it. He's always been one of the most humble superstars I've ever been around.
He's on to the next chapter in his life. Niedermayer, wife Lisa and the four kids have remained in Newport Beach while he figures out whether a job in the Ducks organization is for him. He and Lisa are both from Cranbrook, British Columbia, and they still have a place there.
"The next big decision for us will be decided a lot by what I decide to do in the future," he said. "Do we stay here and call this home for a while or do we move back home, which is something we thought we would do. So we'll see."