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Schneider agrees jetting over to China is quite a way to kick off his pro career

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The furthest afield Nick Schneider has ever ventured in his 21 years on this earth would be 4,089 kilometres, or five-and-a-half hours due south as the jet flies.

"Mexico. Cancun,'' reports the former Hitmen goaltender and Flames prospect, at the departure-gates area Tuesday at the Calgary airport, prior to jetting off to China. "So this, this is a bit of a stretch for me."

Try 10,635 K and 14 hours.

"Yeah, but he's travelling in a bit more style,'' teased Flames' goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet. "Nick'll be busing around the American Hockey League or the East Coast league all winter. So enjoy this. It's kind of a carrot for him, a taste of what life's like at the top.

"I think it's going to be great for him.

"First-year pro, and you get to experience something like this? Whether he plays or not, he's going to love being around the pros at this level, to see how they operate on a daily basis.

"It'll benefit him big-time when we get back and camp continues."

When the Flames' roster for the junket to Shenzhen and Beijing for the O.R.G. NHL Games was unveiled, even Schneider's eyebrows must've shot up slightly seeing his name included.

"If we bring both Jon Gillies and David Riittich, who plays? And we want to get Smitty in as much as he feels he needs to this early in pre-season,'' explains Sigalet. "So we thought it'd be smart to bring one of the younger guys and we decided on Nick. And it's a good decision, I think."

Schnider hopes to be more than strictly the a third-wheel during the two pre-season games versus Boston, Saturday at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre and a week Wednesday at Cadillac Arena in Beijing.

"I didn't know who'd be coming on the trip but when I found out it was going to be the bulk of the Flames' lineup, I was pretty excited, obviously,'' says Schneider, who's pro resume to date is 10 games for the AHL Stockton Heat. "To make the trip, get to know them a little bit, is going to be a great experience.

"To get on the ice with all these guys and take some shots … I'm pretty pumped about that.

"Obviously you want to play. My job going in is just to work as hard as I can, put my head down, stop as many pucks as possible and maybe create an opportunity to get into a period.

"But if I don't, just being on the ice with these guys and learning from Mike (Smith) and Jon (Gillies) is invaluable."

This season, Schneider finds himself in the same boat as fellow netminding prospect Tyler Parsons was a year ago. A newbie to the pro game unsure of his playing destination.

"It's kind of open for me," he says. "Don't know where I'm going to end up, or whether I'll be in multiple places.

"There's a lot of factors involved. Tyler (Parsons), Mason (MacDonald) and I went out for dinner a lot during camp, hearing about their experiences.

"You go with an open mind. Wherever you're put, you do the job to the best of your ability and if you do it well enough, hopefully you move up until one day you get to where we all want to be.

"You understand that it's a process. We all want to reach the NHL one day.

"That's everyone's dream.

"And this trip, going to China, is quite the way to start."

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