Cory Schneider isn't afraid to admit it: He's one of the old guys on the team.
Well, old(er) for a hockey player, especially in the New Jersey Devils locker room.
The Devils current roster is the youngest in the league, and at 34 Schneider is the second oldest, just behind Travis Zajac, who turned 35 in early May.
But with age come wisdom and experience. And Schneider is relying on much of that in these unprecedented times. Cory is a Boston College graduate with a degree in finance and has a keen interest in the business world, which makes him an ideal candidate to be the player representative of the New Jersey Devils with the National Hockey League Players Association. It's a role he's held for several years, but this is new territory.
Video: MEDIA AVAIL | Cory Schneider
"It's been interesting," Schneider said on a video conference call, "it's something I've always enjoyed. I've always been interested in it. I was involved in the lockout in 2012, which was really eye opening. As a player, you kind of go about your business and you do your job, but to sit down with owners and general managers and talk and hear what these discussions are like, it gives you a lot more perspective on what they're trying to accomplish and what we want to accomplish as players. And it's hard. It's hard to find a middle ground where everyone gets what they want, but it's a fascinating process."
But this is nothing like the lockout, this is a global pandemic.
Schneider, along with teammate Kyle Palmieri, his 'deputy' as he jokingly called him, have been very active members of the current stream of calls between the PA and the National Hockey League. The two sides are working together towards an unprecedented 'return to play' plan, to lead the league back onto the ice in the safest, most effective way possible amidst the coronavirus pandemic. It's a complicated operation where there are currently more questions than there are answers.
There's no previous experience to rely on.
"In terms of this, the pandemic, I mean, nobody, nobody has a playbook on how to deal with this," Schneider cautioned. "So, we're all just trying to figure it out as we go. And a lot of our phone calls are just that, we're just sort of planning for contingencies, kicking around ideas, just sort of saying, 'Well, you know, what do you guys want to do with their paycheck?', 'What do you guys want to do for return to play', 'are you going to try to get a new CBA done in conjunction with this?' So, it's a lot, it's a lot of balls in the air at once, but then also not a lot of movement because we're all sort of at a standstill."
What has been the most encourage for Schneider is the response he is getting from his young teammates. There is interest, interest in being a part of the process and understanding how the process is moving along. Cory and Kyle do update their teammates on a regular basis, trying not to flood them with information. He asserted that when you're a young player, you don't always necessarily concern yourself with this business side, "it's just not a high priority", but the uniqueness of this situation has led the younger generation to step up and take an active role.
"It's fun to see younger guy step into that that role," Schneider noted, "because for a long time, it was older guys, and a lot of young guys didn't really seem to have much interest, which makes sense because you're just focused on playing. But as the league has gotten so much younger, it's been encouraging to hear young guys speak up and they have really good thoughts, and they're the guys who are going to steer this league to where it's going to go."
In dealing with the young Devils squad, Schneider has been impressed, with several players reaching out on the side, if their questions aren't answered with the information provided in the team's group text chat.
"I've been impressed," he acknowledged, "a lot, a lot of guys have chimed in and asked questions, even if even if you don't want to on the group chat, guys will text you, or call you on the side and say, 'Hey, you know, I was wondering about this' or 'what does this mean'."
The most asked question is one that truly does not yet have any answer. It's one asked by everyone involved in the game of hockey, including the fans.
Will the league finish the season and award the Stanley Cup?
"I think that's everyone's concern right now," Schneider admitted. "A lot of guys been asking, is there a drop-dead date, what's the date that it's just too late and you can't get the semblance of a season or playoffs in? And then it starts to impact the next season, potentially. And so, I think that that's been a question that to be honest I don't have that answer necessarily. You've kind of just gotten into this mode where you're just waiting."
In the meantime, Schneider will continue to be a part of the Players Association calls and ask the important questions and help towards a resolution, whatever that may look like.
"I understand it from both sides," he remarked, "you know, we just have to weigh what's the most doable, what makes the most sense, even though it may not be what the players wanted or what the teams want.