“From packing groceries to being up with the Canucks, it’s a great story,” said Schneider, with a smirk.
No, this isn’t an update version of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner’s true rags to riches tale that had him rise from the night shift at a grocery store to Super Bowl MVP, not even close.
Schneider was in Warner’s shoes last Saturday though as the 22-year-old goaltender was bagging groceries at a Sobey’s supermarket in Winnipeg, MB as part of the Manitoba Moose’s Holiday Food Drive in support of their local Christmas Cheer Board.
Lane three was his district for a two-hour shift; heaviest items went to the bottom, similar products were grouped together, careful not to squish the bread or crack the eggs.
Schneider, Vancouver’s first round pick in 2004, mastered the art of grocery packing to perfection at the same time that Roberto Luongo
injured his groin against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Word travels fast and the grapevine was trembling on this one, Schneider assumed he’d be called up to the Canucks and not long after his grocery shift ended he was gathering some clothes and preparing for liftoff.
It’s not quite as dramatic as Warner’s tale, but it still counts.
“The guys and I were joking about it, it’s definitely rags to riches,” laughed Schneider.
It’s now been five days since Schneider shifted his priorities from produce to pucks and into a role with the Canucks. He factors in as backup to Curtis Sanford, who will remain Vancouver’s starter until Luongo is able to return from his groin strain.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially Louie because he’s so vital to the team, but it’s an exciting opportunity for me and hopefully we can weather the storm while he’s out,” said Schneider.
Sanford is expected to carry the bulk of the game load until Louie returns, which means that as backup Schneider could simply ride the pine and not get a chance to start his first career NHL game anytime soon.
Having said that, it also wouldn’t be out of the question for the rookie to draw into the equation immediately.
If anything is to be read into his 10-1-0 start with the Manitoba Moose, which features a goals against average and save percentage as miniscule as Michael Phelps’ speedo, it’s that Schneider is ready to face a higher level of competition.
“I think I gained a lot of confidence after last season and just had a better mindset going into it that I was going to go down there and show what I can do and it’s worked out so far.”
Vancouver’s coaching staff may be planning to start him soon, real soon, or maybe not at all. That’s the excitingly aggravating reality Schneider is faced with right now.
“They haven’t said anything to me yet, I’m sure they’re taking it on a day-by-day basis. Obviously [on Monday] Curtis played great again so I’m sure they don’t see a reason to take him out just yet.”
Sandman has backstopped the Canucks to their last three wins – all against teams who won their respected divisions last season – and there haven’t been any cracks in his amour just yet.
When and if one breaks through, Schneider said it would mean the world to him to get his first NHL start.
“It’s going to be really exciting. It’s been a lot of hard work and dreaming and dedication so obviously first and foremost you want to help the team win, but at the same it’s an exciting personal accomplishment because this is what you strive for your whole life.”
Adjusting to the game at the professional level could be Schneider’s toughest task if he does get to play during this stint with the Canucks, as was the case when he jumped from the NCAA to the AHL.
After a stellar three-year career at Boston College, Schneider was with the Moose for the 2007-08 season and it took him a few games to find his footing. He was 5-7-0 after 12 starts with a 3.21 GAA and .882 save percentage before discovering his comfort zone in going 16-5-2 over his last 23 appearances.
“That’s kind of how the progression has worked for me, first college then the American League and hopefully now here,” said Schneider.
“It took a little while in the American League, obviously I had a rough start last year, but it’s part of the game and your mental makeup is how well you adjust to adversity so hopefully it won’t take too long until I’m up to speed here.”
In the NHL the passes will be quicker, the shots harder and the players more aggressive than any Schneider has seen before, but really, it’s no different than bagging groceries. Angles, positioning, organization and poise are required in both instances.
Rags to riches or not, Schneider has proven he deserves a shot in the NHL. When he gets it he'll just have to be careful not to squish the bread or crack the eggs and it could be the start of something special.