Cory Schneider grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts - a town with a population just a little over the capacity of Rogers Arena and not known as a great hockey town.
But not far from the small town, traveling sixteen miles northwest is a hockey team filled with history that couldn't be escaped by the future NHL goalie in the Boston Bruins.
Schneider was drafted by the Canucks in the first round, 26th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He spent three years at Boston College, where he led the Eagles to two Lamoriello Trophies during his time. Schneider still holds the BC all-time shutouts record with 15 through his three-year collegiate career and most shutouts in a season with eight in the 2005-06 season.
He's made two appearances in Vancouver before earning his spot this season on the NHL roster but before the accolades and attention, there were the first steps.
Schneider shares his tales from his road to the NHL.
How old were you when you received your first pair of skates?
That’s a great question... seven or eight maybe? We weren’t from a big hockey family or anything so my older brother started playing and we’d start skating on the pond but I never really started playing hockey until I got my first pair of skates when I was seven or eight.
I think they were hand-me-downs from my older brother Jeff’s so I just got those when he got out of his.
What was the first time on skates like for you?
It was on a pond somewhere in my hometown. I just remember being on a crate – I think there’s a picture, where my brother was trying to play hockey and I’m in the corner standing with my head on the crate – I don’t know if I was asleep or just tired. That’s kind of my first memory but I don’t really remember but there is photographic evidence.
How did you get into hockey?
It was mostly my brother.
My dad is from Delaware and my mom is from California so they didn’t grow up in hockey families and they never played. My town outside of Boston wasn’t known for hockey but it was big in that area because Ray Bourque and Cam Neely were pretty relevant.
A friend of my brother’s told me to come play and my brother was into it so I just kind of did what he did and it made sense.
How did you end up in goal?
It just kind of happened. We used to rotate everyone in goal and I remember I played in net a few times, I liked it and was good at it. Then we started getting into it where we’d have two goalies – one would play out and one would play goal and then switch back and forth, then I realized that I just like playing goal more and I was good at it so I just stuck with it.
Having an older brother also played a little part of it – he put me in net a lot or in kitchen hockey, I was always in goal but I always wanted to play goal too. It wasn’t against my will or anything so it just sent me on my way.
I think my first tryouts were as a forward and I remember the first time I tried it, I really didn’t like it but my parents told me to stick with it. I started playing goal and then I really enjoyed that.
What was your first hockey team?
I think the Mites C team. Minor hockey youth association with just my hometown team.
I just remember getting up really early and being at the rink for the games on the weekends for Buzzer hockey and freezing cold rinks, where my parents had to sit through. Every two minutes, the stupid buzzer would go off and you’d change lines but other than that, I have vague memories of my early hockey experience.
Growing up, the rink was my...
What is your favourite childhood hockey memory?
I don’t really remember anything specific as a kid but it was always fun to play in tournaments in Montreal. It just seemed like such a big deal because in Canada, hockey is so much more – the rinks are better, the teams are better and I thought, “Wow, this is so much more than we do back home’. I think anytime we went to Montreal it was a lot of fun.
We were part of an exchange program with St. Lambert, just outside of Montreal. They would have one of their guys come live with us and when were up there, we would live with them so that was always fun when we did that.
I was paired up with a kid named Jeff Roy (pictured above) for four or five years through the youth hockey program.
What role did your family have in your career?
I can’t even measure all the times we’ve spent in the car. My town is kind of far from everywhere, especially in Boston because all the hockey cities are south of Boston and we live North of Boston and traffic around there is terrible. So we’d always have to go out west or go south and it was always an hour to an hour and a half to get to games and tournaments if I wanted to play in any decent games.
The commitment they made to me was huge, both financially and time, and like I said, it was our weekend destination because we didn’t go skiing or do weekend trips, we were at the hockey rink on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My dad would always make sure that I was still having fun when I was playing hockey. We were travelling a lot, away from my friends, and had a big commitment to it so he made sure every now and then that I as still having fun because there’s no point in doing it if it’s not enjoyable.
He always said that whatever happens, happens but always have fun with it.
What advice would you give someone trying to get to the NHL?
To get to where you want to be, you have to put the time and effort in, you have to practice and have to make that kind of commitment and sacrifice.
You can’t have one foot in and expect big things to happen. If you’re dedicated and willing to do, then go for it.
But at the same time, make sure you have fun with it and don’t make it a chore or a task. Anytime it loses the fun, there’s no point in doing it.
What was the biggest obstacle you overcame to get to the NHL?
I think being somewhat unconventional: Being from the US, didn’t go to the US program, didn’t play on the national team, went from prep school to college, and especially for a goalie, it’s a little unusual.
Every time I changed levels was hard. My first year in high school was tough, my first year in college was tough, first year in Manitoba was tough, my first time up here was tough so every time I’ve moved up a level, it’s been an adjustment.
It’s taken some growing pains and some learning but that’s the one thing about me is that I do make adjustments and I pick up on things and learn from them to become better.
Hopefully, the hardest parts are behind me and from here on out, I can excel, get better, and grow as a player.
Do you ever still get the feeling like this is unbelievable that you've made it here?
I think you have to remember that every now and then.
At first, it’s more like that but the more comfortable you get, the more you feel like you belong and get that confidence, not in a cocky way, but you have to feel like you belong otherwise, if you’re afraid and timid, you don’t play as well as you can.
I guess to a point, you feel like yes, I should be here, I belong, but at the same time, I still have to step back and kind of say, ‘Wow, if I had thought about this five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it’. We are so lucky and fortunate to be here so you can’t take that for granted.