Sports

The improbable and fantastic journey of Drayton Valley's Eric Schneider

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When Eric Schneider left the University of Calgary Dinos unannounced in December, speculation abounded about what was happening with the former Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union rookie of the year. With his recent jump to the International Hockey League's Kansas City Blades, it is apparent that Schneider was busy applying the booster rockets to his career. The IHL, the professional league just under the NHL, home briefly of such NHL stars such as Curtis Joseph, is a giant leap from the CIAU in the mere three months since Schneider left. He catapulted to the IHL from a brief stint with the Knoxville Speed of the United Hockey League, where he showed his scoring prowess and defensive ability immediately.

His departure from Calgary was not spurred by any academic problems; rather his hockey career took precedence.

"I was just a lot more interested in playing hockey," said Schneider. "I wanted to take it to the next level, and for me, the next level was to get a contract."

The East Coast Hockey League, which is a higher level than the United Hockey League, was not an option because Schneider wanted substantial ice time. His decision led him to the Knoxville Speed, one of the worst teams in the UHL.

"It was a stepping stone and I chose Knoxville," said Schneider.

Schneider lit it up during his brief stay in Knoxville, averaging 25 minutes a game with power play and penalty killing duties, and scoring 50 points in just 35 games. It was this exceptional play that got him some notice from the IHL His agent secured him a tryout with the Kansas City Blades.

Schneider commented that the calibre of play in the UHL. was comparable to that of the WHL, the league was mostly comprised of former NCAA and Tier Two players. His pay was reasonable, at $500 a week, but nothing compared to what players pull in with the higher leagues.

Schneider has some pretty elite company with the Blades, playing along side the likes of 1989 second-overall draft pick Dave Chyzowski, former Washington Capital Michael Pivonka, Jon Rohloff, who played 150 games with the Boston Bruins, and some former Calgary Hitmen.

"The guys here are just so professional," commented Schneider. "The level of hockey here is very high. It's a whole other level."

The former Dino hopes that this shot to the top will result in a spot with the NHL, as he hopes to attend the NHL expansion Columbus Blue Jackets' training camp in the fall. With his incredibly quick rise to prominence since Christmas, Schneider looks to be making all the right choices, and shooting for the stars.

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