On Friday night, the former Omaha Lancer and 10-year NHL veteran was the mystery torch lighter at the opening ceremonies of the 29th Cornhusker State Games after the traditional parachute jumpers, mascot race and other State Games staples.
Ortmeyer, who said Friday he has signed a contract with the Florida Panthers for the 2013-14 season, is an Omaha native who played soccer in the State Games. The 34-year-old Omaha Central and Michigan alum has suited up for the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild during his pro career.
This was the second time Ortmeyer said he has participated in a CSG torch-lighting ceremony. When he was with the Lancers, Ortmeyer said, he lit the cauldron at Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum when the CSG had both winter and summer games in the late 1990s.
Q: So your state games sport of choice was soccer?
A: Yeah, I used to play it all the time as a kid. I don't think I played baseball here, but that was another sport I enjoyed.
Q: What are your thoughts about both ice hockey and figure skating being added to the Cornhusker State Games?
A: I think it's great because hockey is definitely growing in the state of Nebraska. We have those (USHL) teams now in Kearney and Lincoln, so it's not just in Omaha. It's exciting to see so many younger guys get a chance to go to college and even have a chance to be drafted.
Q: When did you find out you were being tapped to light the cauldron?
A: About a month or two ago. I got a phone call and it kind of shocked me. I'm honored that they thought of me for such a great honor. It came at the perfect time with the offseason.
Q: What is your fondest memory of being an Omaha Lancer?
A: Playing my first game with my brother (Jake) also on the team. My first year we got to play together, and that was a lot of fun. I loved playing at Ak-Sar-Ben because that building was a big part of my growing up. They had that sellout streak for years, and just knowing so many people in the crowd, all of the family and friends, it was a great experience.
Q: You'll be joining your fifth NHL team this fall. Did you have a favorite team growing up?
A: Growing up I always had a fascination with the (Detroit) Red Wings because (Ed) Bruneteau and Motto McLean played for them and would share stories with us. We didn't get much hockey on TV when I was growing up, so we lived a lot of it through them. That was the NHL to me.
Q: What is your favorite town to play in?
A: Montreal because of the tradition and the town is fun. It's almost like a European city with the dual languages and the culture. It's always a treat during the season to go to the Florida, California and Arizona cities when you're in a cold weather climate. It's always good to get a little Vitamin D.
Q: What about your career after the playing days have come to an end? Given any thought to coaching?
A: I was to the point last year where I really had to start thinking about that, whether I wanted to keep playing or not and whether I could keep contributing effectively at my age. I think it would be a natural transition to get into coaching. I've had a little taste of that helping my brother with his Triple-A team in Omaha and with the Lancers here and there.
Q: Maybe something in a more full-time role with the Lancers?
A: (Laughs) I talked about it a little last year with (owner) Ben (Robert), but obviously it wasn't about anything permanent. It's definitely something I've thought about and would be interested in. There are some things I've learned in practices and games that would be helpful to pass on to younger players.