What’s not to love with a guy who can’t wait to come to Vancouver because of the Christmas market?
He quickly conquered the media, that’s for sure. He gave long, thoughtful answers that were completely devoid of the usual hockey clichés, sending all reporters a notice that they had a new source in the Canucks locker room for quotes and pleasant conversations.
Most recent #Canucks Nate Schmidt meets with the media. Listen! https://t.co/GFhHDGB4me
– Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) October 13, 2020
He signaled his goofy sense of humor as soon as the call started. When the Canucks PR representative reminded media to use the “raise your hand” feature on Zoom if they had a question, Schmidt conscientiously raised his hand to demonstrate, then chuckled to himself, shoulders shaking like Muttley.
It wasn’t the last laugh. He burst out laughing when Thomas Drance of The Athletic pointed out Schmidt’s tendency to let out a “whoop!” When he joined the rush. Her delight that Drance even picked up on this trend was one of the highlights of the call. It certainly helps that Drance was one of the few journalists in the playoff bubble and can hear the sound reverberate in an empty arena.
“It was something that Justin Williams, one of my favorite guys that I’ve played with,” Schmidt said, then took a moment to look into his camera and wish him well in retirement. “He did it a few times at training camp and I asked him why, and he just said, ‘I don’t know, I feel like everyone knows it’s me.’ So I did that too. There were times in games where I would ‘yell’ at him and he would say, ‘Yeah, I knew you were there because nobody else talks to me like that. I guess it’s second nature now, it just happens. If the guys hear it, they know it’s me, and it’s still really loud and piercing.
In fact, one of Schmidt’s few concerns about joining the Canucks is that his strong personality might not be accepted into a new locker room.
“I hope the guys aren’t too sensitive to the fact that I am sometimes too loud and awkward in the locker room,” he said. “I guess that’s what I’m most afraid of.”
No one was going to complain about a boisterous personality in Vegas, the loudest city in the NHL in many senses of the word, with its neon lights, garish colors, and over-the-top atmosphere. This is where Schmidt first got the chance to play the best minutes on the ice and pull it off himself.
“Thank you so much for hugging me and letting me be my adorable, goofy self,” Schmidt said when given the chance to speak to Golden Knights fans directly from a Vegas radio host at the ‘call. “Forever a misfit. Our race together is something that cannot be matched. I just want to say thank you… there really is a special place for me in the Las Vegas community.
Even though Schmidt was full of smiles and laughs, there was clearly a real thrill in leaving Las Vegas. As Schmidt pointed out, he was fortunate to be with a team from the start and help them grow. He referred to the tragic filming on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017 that took place less than a week before the team’s first game.
Unexpectedly, this shoot forged a bond between the expansion team and their city, as the team honored the first responders to this tragedy on opening night and made connections in the community that went way beyond ice. The players were among the first to visit victims in the hospital and to volunteer at the blood banks. It didn’t hurt that the team won 9 of their first 10 home games.
“What we went through as a group and what the city went through on October 1,” Schmidt said, then stopped. “Vegas has a different rap. As a guy who visited there when I was in college, or went there before playing there, you think, “It’s a great little strip in the middle, it’s awesome, what a moment. But then you walk out of town and realize what a phenomenal place and what a phenomenal group of people.
“For a guy like me that character, that kind of welcome, that warmth that people feel towards guys and how we were treated and how the community was so welcoming is something I’ll never forget.”
Understandably, it was hard for Schmidt to come to terms with the reality that he had been traded and admittedly was a bit blind when it happened.
“Last night was difficult. You put down roots in one place, you’ve been there from the start, which is always something special, ”Schmidt said. “I didn’t hear anything until the deal was done. You know with the arrival of Pietrangelo that something had to give… it was a hard pill to swallow.
“It was moving last night,” he added. “You put your heart and soul into it with the band and see how things are and never have been.”
While it was difficult for him to leave Vegas, Schmidt warmed up to the idea of playing in Vancouver after giving it some thought. In fact, it was hot coming to Vancouver for several reasons, starting with the city itself.
“Vancouver has been my favorite place, you can ask Braden [Holtby] if you have a chance, ”he said in reference to the new Canucks goaltender, who he played with in the Washington Capitals and who is one of his best friends. “It’s my favorite place to visit on the road, it’s still my favorite city. There is always buzz around the rink, you have a passionate fan base.
He even suggested that talking to the media was one of Vancouver’s highlights: “We get to speak with you a lot more often. You can see my ugly cup a little more!
He was particularly excited about the Vancouver Christmas market, which unfortunately was postponed this year.
“They have this great Christmas market that I buy my mom ornaments every year and take them home,” he laughs. “It’s right in the city center, so I’ve always thought it was great, we always came there around Christmas.”
Of course, there are some appealing aspects to Vancouver on the ice as well. Schmidt knew Brock Boeser – whom he called “Brocker” – after playing together in the Da Beauty League in Minnesota during the summer. He described him as “a funny guy, he cracks me up. I like it, it’s a good egg.
Above all, he’s thrilled to have skilled forwards he can pass the puck to.
“My coach D in college would always say, ‘Schmidtty, give the puck to the qualifier’, and luckily we have a lot of them,” he said. “Lots of guys who can ride, process and play. I’m pretty sure I remember Mr. Pettersson turning me into a top last year at Brocker, so luckily for me I don’t need to see that stuff anymore.
It would be a reference to that ridiculous assist from Pettersson from his knees after Schmidt tripped him over a gift from his longtime defense partner Brayden McNabb.
Schmidt also spoke about the possibilities of playing who he could play with, whether it’s a save pair or a more run-and-gun pair with Quinn Hughes.
“If I’m playing on the safe side it’s to be a stable, stable guy who can jump in the game, get my feet moving and help the team in a tough few minutes,” he said. “I’m proud to play against the front row of the other team and do my best to stop the guys as best you can and give our guys a chance to be successful.
Beyond the excitement of his new teammates – and joining a few alumni at Holtby and Jay Beagle – Schmidt is looking forward to playing with a thriving squad.
“There was a buzz about [the Canucks] in the bubble. There was a buzz about their young players and the talent they have, especially up front and then back with Quinn Hughes dotted with veteran guys who have been around the league, ”said Schmidt. “This team has a great feeling, a team that lost 3-1 in the series and never allowed us in Vegas to come back and say ‘It’s over, it’s over’.
“It’s something very admirable. This is the kind of team you want to be a part of. You want to be part of a group of guys who will fight tooth and nail for each other until the end.
“With each passing hour, the excitement increases,” he added.
The same should be true for the Canucks fans who welcome Schmidt to the team.