But at long last he was finally able to do so as a signed, sealed and delivered member of the Vancouver Canucks organization. After working out the final details of his first professional contract, the 21-year-old goaltending prospect slipped on a Canucks jacket and ball cap and took a break from the team’s summer conditioning camp at General Motors Place to meet the assembled Vancouver media Tuesday morning.
Poised off the ice just as he is when tends goal, Schneider calmly talked about the decision to leave Boston College to turn pro.
“It was a very tough decision. And I just wanted to be completely clear and absolute in what I was doing. And that’s why it took so long. But once it was in my head, I think it was the right decision to make,” the Marblehead, Massachusetts native said. “It was very difficult. You can’t buy a senior year in college and they would have been a good team and it would have been a lot of fun. But when it came down to it I thought I was ready to take the next step in my career development.”
That next step will likely be the starter’s role on the Canucks American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba. After three successful years of college hockey, Schneider needs to test himself against players at the next level. That’s a process that started at the end of this past season.
“I was over at the World Championships in Russia (with Team USA) and I think I got a good view of what it would be like (to play professionally). I didn’t get much game time, but just in practices seeing how they skate and move the puck and shoot it. Clearly it’s faster, it’s quicker and you have to be that much faster in your reads and decisions,” he added. “I think, obviously, I’m going to take my lumps here and there and learn as I go, but I’m prepared to do that and won’t be discouraged and hopefully the organization won’t be discouraged either. I’ll just learn as I go and become as good as I can.”
It’s that potential that made the Canucks jump at Schneider with the 26th pick in the 2004 draft after watching him play high school hockey in the Boston area. And in the years since his draft day, he’s done everything to prove the scouts got it right. He played for the U-S at a pair of World Junior championships in 2005 and 2006 and led his Boston College Eagles to the final game of the NCAA Frozen Four in each of the past two years.
“He’s a player for the future of our organization, there’s no doubt about it. There’s been a lot of questions and a lot of teams asking about Cory as they should. Our goal at the end was to make sure we got Cory signed. We felt that he was ready to be a professional,” said Canucks Assistant General Manager Steve Tambellini. “He’s accomplished a great deal at Boston College and now he’s ready. The plan for Cory will be to make sure that he has a good start here and take the reins in Manitoba. He needs to establish himself as one of the premiere goalies at that level.”
Embarking on his journey into the world of professional hockey will present both challenges and opportunities for Schneider. He’s aware of that and one of the opportunities he’s most excited about is getting a chance to share the ice with incumbent starter Roberto Luongo
when the team gathers for training camp in September.
“He (Luongo) is probably the best goalie in the league right now,” Schneider said. “I’m excited to be part of the organization and wherever they send me I’ll be excited to go. I feel I need some time in Manitoba to prepare myself and get ready and hopefully someday in the future I can get the chance to work with a guy like Roberto.”
For Schneider, being back in Vancouver this week not only brought about the chance to work with other young prospects in the organization, it also brought back good memories of his experience in the ’06 World Junior championship. And although the Americans went home without a medal, Cory Schneider
did not go home empty handed. He took with him a pretty good idea of the place he hopes to one day call his NHL home.
“These fans are incredibly passionate and that’s one of the great things about the city. It’s a fantastic hockey town and they’re really into the team which is great,” he said. “I’d much rather come to a place like this than a place where hockey’s a non-factor.”
There’s a lot of hockey fans who can’t wait to see what Cory Schneider
can do at the next level. But nobody is more eager than the prized prospect himself.
As far as the Canucks other signings of the day are concerned, Steve Tambellini spoke about resigning defenseman Lukas Krajicek and adding veteran free agents Brad Isbister and Byron Ritchie:
On areas the Canucks would like Krajicek to develop:
“Lukas is blessed with an elite skating ability and that sets him apart from a lot of young defensemen. We’d like him to take charge of a lot more situations. We’re looking for him to take that next maturity step where he can bring the puck up the ice and make something happen, not always dishing off. He has the ability to do more offensively than he’s shown.”
On what the Canucks hope Isbister can provide:
“We wanted to increase our size. Brad’s a big guy -- 6’4 and 230 (lbs) – that skates well. At times he’s underachieved in his career, but he’s really rebounded in the last year with his play in New York and the time that he had to spend in the American Hockey League because of inconsistent play. Our scouts and our staff were working hard to try to find value and that’s what that’s about. He’s a player that has good experience, he’s played at the international level for Team Canada, he’s played at the top six forward positions but we see him more in our bottom six for this coming season.”
On one of the keys in negotiating with both Isbister and Byron Ritchie:
“Both expressed a great desire to come to Vancouver which was really exciting for us when we were thinking about bodies that we could bring in as energy and size guys. That impressed us that they were willing to take a discount to come to Vancouver and play on a team that they know can compete.”
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org