Name: Nino Niederreiter
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 210 lb
Hometown: Chur (CH) und Winnipeg (CAN)
Hobbies: Golf, badminton, nature, sports in general
Music: Very flexible; I enjoy many different types of music
Profession: Professional hockey player
Hockey team: Winnipeg Jets
Hockey specialty: My office is in front of the net…
Favorite menu: Raclette
Favorite drink: Mineral water
Favorite vacation destinations: Greece, Spain, Italy
Nino's Life Story
Nino Niederreiter grew up with his two sisters on Churer Weststrasse in a typical Swiss canton of Grisons middle-class family. Father Rene earned his money as a steelworker, and mother Ruth works at this time as a midwife. In the Swiss small town Idyll with a view of Fürhörnli and Calanda, Nino started dreaming of the big world of hockey through a Latvian. Nino’s sports inspiration is Harijs Vitolins. The center of Latvia’s national team switches from the Winnipeg Jets to Switzerland in the mid-90s. After a season with Rapperswil-Jona, the 6′ 4″ man ended up at EHC Chur.
Nino was five years old when he saw Vitolins perform for the first time in the indoor stadium. From that point on, little Niederreiter tried to follow in “Big Harijs’s” footsteps. Although he consistently delivered impressive samples of his talent, his dream of a great hockey career seemed to be shattered shortly before his tenth birthday – Nino was hit by a motorist while crossing a pedestrian crossing on a scooter. On the way to the hospital, the extraordinary boy told his shocked mother his last will: “If I die, I want you to bury me in hockey gear…” But it didn’t take long before Nino made an impressive comeback on the ice. The talent scouts from HC Davos lured him to the Landwassertal organization, the record Swiss champion, at the age of 14, where Arno Del Curto is the head coach at the time. In case the professional sports career doesn’t work out, Niederreiter starts an apprenticeship as a heating technician. However, only halfheartedly. “On my first day at vocational school, I had to write an essay about my expectations and goals for my apprenticeship.
I got pretty nasty looks from the teacher because I wrote that I probably wouldn’t finish the training so I could focus on hockey full-time.” And then? “On the second day of school, I was absent because of a U20 tournament in Slovakia. And on the third day of school, I gave the textbooks to the director and said ‘goodbye’.” At this point, Niederreiter is already playing a leading role in Del Curto’s future plans. However, “El Nino” duped HCD General in the same way as the vocational school teacher. Niederreiter still gets a chill down his spine when he tells this anecdote: “I was 16 and played in the first playoff semifinal game with HCD against Fribourg. We led 4:1, the fans were going crazy with joy. Arno pulled me aside on the bench and said, “Isn’t this amazing, right?!” I couldn’t really enjoy the fantastic atmosphere because I still had to deliver some unpleasant news to Del Curto. I didn’t really know how to do it.”
Actually, he wanted to tell the big Arno after this game what was going on. But he did it four minutes before the final siren: “That’s when I made it clear to Arno that I wouldn’t be available for the next playoff match because I’ll be traveling to the U-18 World Championship in the USA instead and playing for Portland in the Western Hockey League next season. Arno, who relied on me so heavily at the time, threw up his hands and assured me that I’ll regret this decision one day.”
Indeed, in the first few months in Portland, the sensitive guy from the canton of Grisons mountains often thought of Del Curto’s warning words. “I almost couldn’t speak a single English word at the beginning. I was very shy and had a lot of homesickness.”
But then Niederreiter started to make his way in the “wild hockey west.” – Thanks in part to the support of his Canadian forward colleague, Ryan Johansen. “Ryan was a rookie on the team, just like me. When we traveled 30 hours by bus to an away game, we both had to sit in the very back. That brought us closer together. Suddenly we understood each other on and off the ice almost blindly.”
The Swiss-Canadian connection harmonizes greatly in Portland, so that the ultimate childhood dream comes true for both in 2010. Johansen is drafted in the first round, fourth overall, by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the New York Islanders secure Niederreiter’s rights at fifth overall. With the Islanders, Niederreiter has the good fortune of having the first Swiss NHL All-Star, Mark Streit, as captain. “Streit took care of me like a big brother. I was allowed to stay with him.” On the ice, however, the left wing doesn’t really get going with the Islanders. In two years, he scored only two goals, and is therefore repeatedly sent down to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, however 2013 was a spectacular turning point for Niederreiter.
After winning the silver medal with the Swiss national team at the World Championship in Sweden, Nino was transferred to the Minnesota Wild, where he became a regular player. In 2014/15, he scored over 20 goals for the first time in an NHL season. His career best so far was achieved in the 16/17 season with 25 goals and 32 assists. As a reward, the “Wild” offer him a five-year contract that paid him $5.25 million per season. In January 2019, the passionate fisherman was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he scored 69 goals in four years. In the fall of 2022, a new chapter has begun for Nino. Since his move to the Nashville Predators, Nino has been playing with thee acquaintances – his Swiss National Team buddy Roman Josi, Minnesota teammate Mikael Granlund and his friends from Portland Ryan Johansen. “When I first entered the locker room in Nashville, it was like coming home after a long journey for me. I feel really at home here.” That’s why Arno Del Curto has also come to realize that Nino Niederreiter made the right decision back then to choose the adventure in North America over HCD.
My love of sports goes far beyond the ice rink. I am passionate about playing golf and badminton. Even conditioning and strength training, which some of my colleagues consider a chore, brings me joy. In my free time, I enjoy following sports and attending sporting events. When I attend sporting events, I much prefer sitting with friends and true fans, rather then sitting in the VIP area. When I am sitting amongst friends and fellow fans, I feel real excitement where I start to cheer like a little boy the tennis areas, ski stars, evil wrestlers and gifted soccer players. My appreciation for the performances of other athletes is enormous.
Hunting and fishing – spending time in nature
As a native of the Swiss canton of Grisons, I grew up with hunting. My family and good friends have been going on hunting trips for years. The fact that I don’t yet have the Grison hunting license is mainly due to the fact that part of this test can only be taken in winter. At that time of year, I have other commitments in North America, but after my hockey career is over, I will immediately take the hunting test. Until then, I regularly go fishing with my hockey colleagues between intense NHL games. I find perfect balance and feel peace when I am in nature.
Another passion: Art
As a boy, I dreamed of becoming an artistic blacksmith. A labor intensive job with wonderful artistic facets. My career has developed differently, for which I don’t reget, however, my love of art has never changed. I regularly visit exhibitions, galleries, and artists. I invest a decent part of my income in pictures that adorn the walls in my house. I particularly like to support young artists.
My family – my source of strength or my home port
My family means a lot to me. I am infinitely grateful for the support I receive from my parents in all life situations. In the company of my family, I gain a lot of strength and joy. I get along really well with my two sisters. In order to be able to live this connection as best as possible in the future, I built my house in Chur in close proximity to my parents’ house. We had a very special family gathering in October 2022 in Bern, where I played with the Predators against SC Bern. My two grandmothers, mom and dad, siblings, both brothers-in-law and my godchildren were all there for this match. It was an unforgettable joyful evening..
Chur – my home town
A small town with just under 33,000 inhabitants. At the gate to the mountains. This is where I grew up. I always love coming back here. Since 2021, I have been pleased to serve as a board member for my home club, EHC Chur. It is important to me that the youth hockey players in my hometown will continue to have access to such a fantastic education, like I received. Currently we are still playing in the amateur league and enjoying it, however I have not given up hope that one day we can seriously challenge our big cantonal rival from Davos…
Switzerland – my home country
I am proud to be Swiss. Because I love this wonderful country so much, I spend almost all of the summer months between Graubünden and Zurich. There is nothing more restful for me than when I can spend time with my loved ones in this uniquely beautiful environment. I love it when I get to wear the jersey of the Swiss national team. It is a unique feeling to be able to represent your home country at a major tournament. Unfortunately, because the World Cup takes place during the NHL playoffs, I cannot always attend, however, the two silver medals that I won in 2013 and 2018 with my national team colleagues at the World Championships in Sweden and Denmark outshines everything else in my sporting career.