The injury was still evident the next morning when during his video call with reporters covering his new team, the Vancouver Canucks, the 29-year-old was asked about leaving Las Vegas and the Golden Knights, who helped to heal this town when the expansion team opened its first season in the National Hockey League days after the October 1, 2017 mass shootout against 471 people at a music festival just off the famous Vegas Strip .
You never leave something like that behind. If you care about people, you can’t.
“We healed together,” Schmidt said. “I was on the Strip that night. It was crazy, something I will never forget. You remember things like it was yesterday. You feel a connection at that point. You are part of the fabric of the community. This is what you remember the most.
Later, in a phone interview with Sportsnet, Schmidt explained, “Vegas, you were there from the start. We have been through a scandalous tragedy. It was just about being part of the community. We canceled the training (after the shoot) and we said to ourselves: we have to go out and do what we can, go to the blood drive. There were things like that. You will miss this.
“The trade was really difficult. It is very moving when that happens. It is sometimes difficult to see the big picture and the opportunity that presents itself in the (first) hours that follow. It was hard. For me, I found out when it happened, and that was it. It is the most difficult thing to accept. It takes a while for the initial shock to wear off to (say), “Hey, this is where we’re going. This is what is happening. This is when you can start to build that excitement, you can start thinking about the next step. ”
In Washington, where general manager George McPhee signed Schmidt as an undrafted free agent at the University of Minnesota years before the two met in Vegas, the Capitals liked to say he was “happy” and that there was “Happy Nate Schmidt”.
Happy Nate Schmidt, for those lucky enough to see him, is on another level. The defenseman is one of the most bubbly, talkative and thoughtful players in the NHL.
Seriously, just go to HockeyDB.com and look at Schmidt’s smiley mug. Try to be that happy.
Even while dealing with his shock trade by Vegas, which was desperate enough for a salary cap, he ceded his 22-minute-a-night defenseman to the Canucks for a third-round pick just a year after Schmidt’s sixth, 35.7 $ -million contract extension, Minnesotan was bursting with energy on Tuesday. It wasn’t long before he laughed and had probably had the most engaging Zoom call since the global pandemic hit the NHL in March.
He was delighted that a reporter covering the Canucks-Knights playoffs in Edmonton without a fan had taken Schmidt’s habit of “yelling” for the puck rather than shouting, like words, at his teammates. Honestly, we think some people outside of Rogers Place might hear Schmidt as well.
“If the guys hear it, they know it’s me,” he says. “And it’s still very strong and piercing.”
He was self-deriving, generous in his praise to Canucks players and to Vancouver, which he said has always been his favorite city in the NHL. Schmidt later said he never had the Canucks on his list of 10 no-trade teams.
He called Canuck Brock Boeser, a fellow Minnesotan who plays summer hockey with Schmidt in the Twin Cities, a “good egg.”
He said he remembered Vancouver star Elias Pettersson “who spun me up high.”
He said that goaltender Thatcher Demko’s performance in pushing the Knights to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals “really hurt our mojo.”
And he marveled at Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, a likely partner of Schmidt early next season.
“His hips are pivoting,” he said. “That’s how he shakes and cooks on the blue line. As much as I want to do this, I don’t have it. I don’t think anyone has that in their game like Quinn Hughes does. Maybe I can have a hip. It’s a very rare talent to have and it’s really fun to watch.
Asked about his positive outlook, Schmidt said it was just the way he was raised by his parents, JoAnn and Tom, in Saint-Cloud.
The family started a chain of convenience stores and gas stations in central Minnesota when the three children were old enough to provide cheap labor.
“Schmidty’s snacks and gas,” Nate said. “Or just Schmidty. This is where I grew up working and I’m the youngest, so I’ve always had all the jobs no one else wanted. I cleaned the awnings for bugs, cleaned the car wash. Car washes are actually one of the most disgusting places you can think of because of all the dirt and grime. I would pressure clean it, paint the gas islands, scrub them with a wire brush.
“My mother and father preached to treat people the way you want to be treated. I always try to treat people with respect and the way I would like them to treat me. It’s just kind of like I am. I like to invest myself in what I do and in the people who invest in me too.
In a way, it’s a wonderful thing that Schmidt was so “hurt” by the Vegas business because it shows how much he cared about his team and his community. That means he could grow up and care about the Canucks and Vancouver just as much.
The closest thing to Canucks blue is a ten-year-old sweatshirt from the Fargo Force, the American Hockey League team that Schmidt played for before he started college, so he pulled it out of the box. ‘a drawer for its Zoom call.
“Honestly, the number of guys who contacted me was a big help,” he said. “And having (former Capital) Braden Holtby there – he’s one of my best friends in hockey – it makes it a lot easier.
“I’ve talked to some of the guys in Vancouver and one of the best things and one of the things I’ve heard the most about is the strength of the group. That’s what gets you excited about what the future holds. Hope the guys aren’t too sensitive to the fact that I’m too loud and awkward sometimes in the locker room. I guess that’s what I’m most afraid of.
Not the constant, unyielding focus of playing on what Schmidt has described as hockey’s biggest scene?
“I guess that’s to be determined,” he said. “That first year in Vegas, we were kind of rockstars as well. They’re not the same kind of rockstars as hockey players in Canada, but you get what goes with it. There are a lot of people who know hockey and are big fans. But if you win, you see it like it’s forever in Canada. It’s awesome. ”
Just wait until he really warms up to the idea.