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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
(Photo by Bill Wippert)

How Acquired: 1987 Supplemental Draft
Buffalo stats (1989-1992): 215 games; 26-46-72, 109 PIMs
Career NHL stats (1989-1993): 265 games; 30-54-84, 127 PIMs

Mention the name Dave Snuggerud to a Sabres fan, and they are likely to recall a reliable special teams player who played a key role on the teams of the late 80’s. These days, Snuggerud is teaching that same work ethic to kids in Minnesota, and the Sabres could benefit from it very soon.

Drafted first overall by Buffalo in the 1987 Supplemental Draft from the University of Minnesota, Snuggerud joined the Sabres at the start of the 1989-90 season after competing for Team USA at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Snuggerud played all 80 games in his rookie season, finishing with 14 goals and 16 assists. The Minnesota-native showed his true value as a checking winger, scoring six shorthanded goals in 215 games with Buffalo, including a team-high four during the 1990-91 season.

Following a trade to San Jose for Wayne Presley on March 9, 1992, Snuggerud would end his NHL career as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers where he played 14 games in 1992-93. Snuggerud took the 1993-94 season off, and officially called it quits after playing 72 games with IHL’s Manitoba Moose in 1994-95.

Snuggerud has spent the last 20 years as a teacher in Minnesota, and two years ago started the Breakaway Academy, a private school which combines academics and athletics. He’s also trained several Minnesota-area hockey players, including Sabres prospect Hudson Fasching, who is currently in his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota. recently had the chance to talk with Snuggerud about his playing career, and what he’s accomplished since then.

What are your memories of playing in Buffalo?
I enjoyed the people in Buffalo and their enthusiasm for sport. Buffalo sports fans were very supportive and wanted to win. It was a lot of fun talking hockey to families in Buffalo.

Guys like Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Rob Ray, Mike Ramsey, Pierre Turgeon, Rick Vaive, Doug Bodger, Scott Arniel and Rick Dudley all took the time to make my first year in the league special. There was a lot to learn and they all took the time to help.

You grew up in Minnesota and played hockey at the University of Minnesota. You also represented the United States at the 1988 Winter Olympics. What do you consider your career highlight?
Every season and team was a different experience. College hockey was so much fun, trying to learn how to manage your time between classes, practices, and travel. We had a lot of success when I played at the University of Minnesota. The success was driven by the tradition of Gopher hockey, great coaching, and the local talent around the Twin Cities that decided to attend the University of Minnesota.

I really enjoyed my Olympic experience because I had a chance to play with unbelievable talent. Kevin Stevens, Craig Janney, Mike Richter, Tony Granato, Scott Young and Brian Leetch were players that excelled and were fun to practice with every day.

You retired from professional hockey in 1995 at age 29. What went into your decision to retire at such a ‘young’ age when many thought you could still play?
Looking back on it now, I wish I would have decided to play a few more years. At the time I retired, I was very interested in starting my teaching career. Every summer when I went back to Minneapolis I worked on my teaching degree. I earned my degree and was ready to start a new career.

What was your thought process in creating the Breakaway Academy?
I taught for 20 years in the public school. My concern is that too many students are being assessed on their character by how they do on a test score. Two years ago, I started a school that I had been working on for about five years called Breakaway Academy.

We are a private school for students in grades 5-8, and we use licensed teachers that instruct in a traditional school setting. We use the Minnesota Standards to guide our student learning in math, science, language arts, and social studies. In the afternoon, the athletes train on- and off-the-ice to become better hockey players. After school, our student athletes go and play for their local hockey association teams.

How has the Breakaway Academy grown?
We are in our second year. The first year we had 25 students, and we have doubled in size for the second year with 50 students. We will continue to grow because of the small class sizes, the individualized learning and great hockey training. The kids are learning about character and how to be a good person.

Have you had the chance to work with any famous names over the years?
I had the opportunity to train future great Hudson Fasching who will wear the Sabres uniform in the near future. We have also trained eight D-I college hockey players.

Are you still coaching high school hockey?
I have been coaching for the past 20 years. We have three kids in hockey and I have been fortunate enough to coach all my kids, from mites through high school. Our fourth child is a swimmer, and she decided to play in warm water rather than on frozen water.

Your nephew Luc was drafted by Chicago (fifth round, 141st overall) this year – did you give him any advice throughout the draft process?
I trained Luc and Hudson together, and they both trained very hard. The message was always to be a son-of-a-gun on the ice and compete at the highest level. But when you leave the playing field, work on being the nicest person you can.

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