Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was a lifetime hockey fan who devoted elements of his comic strip and his life to the sport. On Saturday, the Stanley Cup will be hosted at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., in conjunction with the opening of a new exhibit, "Peanuts in the Penalty Box."
The exhibit will feature 60 original Peanuts strips having to do with hockey, according to his widow, Jeannie Schulz.
The museum is across the street from the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, commonly known as "Snoopy's Home Ice," which was owned by the famed cartoonist when it opened in 1969 and where he shared his love of hockey until his death in 2000 from complications arising from colon cancer. The arena hosts the annual Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament.
"He and his first wife opened the arena in 1969, and they started a hockey program right away," Jeannie Schulz said. "He used to referee those games."
Charles Schulz won the Lester B. Patrick Trophy, awarded annually to honor contributions made to ice hockey in the United States, in 1981. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
"It really pleased him. Part of the reason he was awarded those honors was because of the arena, and because he promoted hockey," Jeannie Schulz said.
The Peanuts' creator's love of hockey began during his childhood in Minnesota. That passion spilled over into his comic strips, where hockey and the Zamboni were consistent themes.
"When they were kids they used to play on the street, or his in backyard," Jeannie Schulz said. "He used to talk about how they would fold up newspapers and put them inside their pants for shin pads.
"Hockey was something they all did from kids on."
Jeannie Schulz said her husband used to attend California Seals games frequently in the 1970s and that they both became San Jose Sharks fans when the franchise arrived in 1991. Although she hasn't been to a Sharks game in a while, she said she still maintains a passion for hockey.
"I can't say that I understand the game except I know obviously they're trying to put it in the goal, and it's hard to get it in that goal," Jeannie Schulz said. "It's unlike basketball where they run down the court, shoot a basket, run down to the other end and shoot a basket; that's kind of boring to me. But hockey is really a beautiful game to watch."
She said the exhibit in the museum, the start of the 40th annual Snoopy's Senior Tournament and hosting the Stanley Cup will be a celebration of her late husband's passion for and dedication to hockey.
"This all is a tribute to [Charles'] love for hockey and the fact that the NHL, in one way or another by giving him these awards or bringing the [Stanley Cup] here, is acknowledging that he has been a supporter of hockey and a promoter of hockey," Jeannie Schulz said. "We're just happy that it's here."
And whether most people know it, the Peanuts characters and their creator were hockey people.
"There are 50 comic strips that mention the Zamboni. That's partly because he thought it was a funny word," Jeannie Schulz said. "People love it because people who know what a Zamboni is relate to it, and then people who don't are just out of the loop."