A few weeks ago TGR and JUF News published an article about the surge of Jewish hockey players. Many TGR fans including Ronnie Masliansky noticed the omission of arguably the greatest Jewish hockey player; Mathieu Schneider. That was because we were holding a surprise interview with the legend! Schneider is a Stanley Cup Champion, two-time NHL All-Star, World Cup Winner, and inducted in the US Hockey Hall of Fame and International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Schneider was a mensch with his time and here is our conversation:
1) When did you get started in hockey and when did the pros become a reality?
My dad got me start playing when I was three, mostly because he married a woman who was from a large French Canadian family. He did it so I would keep up with my cousins.
As for the second part of your question, you don’t know until you get there. Today is a different generation of players and scouts. Today people say certain players are destined. But even in juniors you are a player prospect and should always be trying to prove yourself. For me it wasn’t a reality until I got there in my first year.
2) Did you take pride in being a defenseman with strong offensive numbers? Did you ever consider shifting to the frontline?
I played a little bit of forward in High School and my coaches didn’t think I was a good enough skater. One year before I was drafted I also moved up to forward for about two months but Montreal didn’t like that idea. I always saw offense as the most fun part of the game was I attacked more.
3) What was your biggest accomplishment as a player?
Two things stand out for me; the World Cup and Stanley Cup with the Canadians. Those two accomplishments were the highlights.
4) What led you to begin working for the NHLPA? What has been the focus of your portfolio?
I was always involved as a player. I was a player rep at 20 years old. The vets got me involved and it had been important to me. Then in the ’04-’05 lockout there was lots of controversy. I was involved in the internal politics and in last few years I was on the Competition Committee and Executive Committee. The idea of working with the NHLPA intrigued me and when I retired the last thing I did was serve on the search committee for Don Fehr and we spoke about me possibly coming on board. It eventually morphed and I couldn’t have thought of a career like this. I am passionate it about. I played on ten teams so I saw the good, the bad and the ugly.
5) Working for the NHL off the ice, what advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Lot of times I should have kept my mouth shut. I was on ten teams because I spoke my mind. I don’t have any regrets but I wish I would’ve kept my head down, worked hard and just allowed people to notice me.
6) Can #1 pick Jack Hughes become an elite player in the NHL?
100% We spoke about kids being prodigies and Jack is one of those guys. He was been dominate at an early age. You can usually predict that some guys will be successful but this is toughest league to play in. Both Hughes brothers, I met them and know them and they have a lot of support around them. They will have all the opportunities to be successful and they are highly skilled.
7) What was your Jewish life like growing up and how do you connect today?
When I was young we went to temple on the High Holidays. My dad is very proud jew and I have been as well. What really means a lot to me is how I live my life and treat others. That is what I look for in other people and that is a big part of who I am. We all go through life experiences, as a player it is one thing but living life day-to-day is more important. Treat others like you would like to be treated.