Former Penguin Dave “The Hammer” Schultz is widely regarded as one of the toughest NHL players ever to play the game. And considering his 2,294 career penalty minutes in just 535 games and his NHL record 472 PIMs in the 1974-75 season, it’s not hard to see why he had that reputation.
But Schultz, 61, is setting his sights on a new foe off the ice: bullying.
Schultz, who won two Stanley Cup champions while playing under Penguins general manager Ray Shero’s father Fred in Philadelphia, is the President of “Put Bullying on Ice” program, an anti-bullying campaign targeted at young students across America (www.PutBullyingOnIce.com).
One of the biggest reasons Schultz, who now works mainly in the energy business with electricity and solar, began the program is because it has a special meaning to his life. Despite being a tough guy in his NHL career, Schultz was the victim of bullying in his youth.
|Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins |
“I grew up differently than what you’d expect. I was bullied,” said Schultz, who played two seasons for the Penguins from 1977 to 1979. “Kids used to tease me and I wasn’t very big. Even in junior I scored a lot of goals. I wasn’t a fighter in hockey. I’ve never fought off the ice.
“(Bullying is) a major problem in our schools. We talked about it and thought it was a great idea (to start the program). We’ve been working on it for a while and looking to launch going into middle schools, which is usually where the bullying starts. It’s launching this fall.”
Through the program, Schultz will travel to various schools to teach students about the importance of ending bullying and it’s negative effects. One thing in particular that Schultz’s stressed is that even those not directly involved in the bullying need to help.
“One of the keys is talking about not being a bystander,” Schultz said. “Don’t just stand there. So many people and kids don’t want to get involved. They need to. They need to help.
“I would talk about what my youth was like. The point really ends up being getting their attention and then getting them to get involved with the program. I don’t just go in and leave. We have a bullying pledge and it gets everyone involved.”
Schultz, who admitted that he never enjoyed the fisticuffs of the sport that made him famous, started his career as a prolific scorer in junior hockey. But after arriving in the Eastern Hockey League, the league that inspired the movie “Slapshot,” in 1969, his entire career changed.
“It was an animal league,” he said. “If you went around a guy he’d give you a two-hander, animals that would spear you in the face if you looked at them. I considered myself a (wimp). I didn’t want anything to do with fighting. I got into a fight in my first game and I did pretty well.
(Bullying is) a major problem in our schools. We talked about it and thought it was a great idea (to start the program). We’ve been working on it for a while and looking to launch going into middle schools, which is usually where the bullying starts. - Dave Schultz
“I got into a fight in my next game. All of a sudden I was nicknamed Sergeant Shultz. I didn’t like doing it, but I certainly enjoyed the rewards I was getting. My teammates didn’t mind.”
The Flyers, the team that drafted Schultz 52nd overall in the 1969 Amateur Draft, needed some muscle in their lineup. So head coach Fred Shero brought Shultz to the NHL in 1972.
“The Flyers knew what I was doing in the minors,” Schultz said. “It just continued. I couldn’t get out of it. I couldn’t stop. I used to envision fighting a guy. When something happened or saw one of their guys do something to one of our players, I had to do something. That was my job. I hated it until the moment we grabbed each other and started swinging.”
Schultz, who said he recalled seeing a young Ray Shero “running around the dressing room,” helped the elder Shero and the Flyers win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and ’75. He was even inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame despite playing only three-plus seasons with the team.
Schultz became a Penguin following a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in 1977. His second son was born in Pittsburgh and he still has fond memories of the city.
“I remember all the guys, (Bob) Paradise, Rick Kehoe, Randy Carlyle, Pierre Larouche,” he said. “We didn’t have a bad team. It was nice living here.
“I bought a four-wheel drive,” he joked.
And he was amazed that NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux is part-owner of the team he played for and saved from extinction.
“For Mario Lemieux to come here as a first-round draft choice, win a couple Stanley Cups, have this great career and then to become part owner, that’s incredible.”
It’s also incredible that an NHL-tough guy is so actively involved in ending violence and bullying in schools.