Canucks’ Cory Schneider stays loose in tight situation (with video)
Coronated starting goaltender feels no discomfort even if Roberto Luongo is left waiting in wings
Goalie Cory Schneider keeps his eyes on the puck during an informal skate of Vancouver Canucks players at UBC in Vancouver on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
VANCOUVER — It was the summer in Europe that Cory Schneider never had as a student. Except it was winter and he was 26 and killing time before starting a $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
So the goalie wasn’t exactly travelling through Switzerland with a backpack, hacky sack, guitar and an old van full of young friends in need of clean clothes and a shower. But he did have a Volkswagen.
“They provided a car; it was kind of like a Beetle,” Schneider said Tuesday of his month in the Swiss National League. “We had a great time. We drove to Venice for a couple of days. We went to Milan, Lugano, Lake Como. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, just being in the mountains and on lakes, near Italy. I did some things I never thought I’d get to do.”
The hockey was fun, too, as Schneider kept his mind and body sharp towards the end of the National Hockey League lockout by playing goal for Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland’s top league.
“The food was pretty good,” he smiled.
Yeah, we thought so, because his NHLPA jersey was tighter than the salary cap when Schneider rejoined 11 Canuck teammates Tuesday for an impressively intense pre-training camp practice under Thunderbirds’ coach Milan Dragicevic.
Schneider’s in shape. His jersey was just a little small.
He may feel far more constricted if he struggles when the NHL and its players finally get around to starting a 48-game regular season on Jan. 19.
In Switzerland, Schneider’s backup for eight games was Nolan Schaefer, former Canuck Peter’s younger brother, who had a bottle of Gatorade with the San Jose Sharks in the first season after the last lockout.
Barring a trade, Schneider’s backup for the Canucks will be three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and Olympic gold-medal-winner Roberto Luongo.
Schneider told reporters Tuesday that the most uncomfortable thing about Luongo’s unresolved status is the media’s questions about it.
Just wait until the season starts and the Canucks are carrying two No. 1 goalies commanding $9.33-million in pro-rated salaries and Schneider loses two in a row and there’s a rumour du jour about a Luongo trade and some smartypants on Twitter called @Strombone1 starts chirping.
Schneider will miss those halcyon days bombing around Southern Switzerland in Das Auto.
"I've felt pressure every single game I've played in this city," he said. "The only pressure comes from within; it's whatever you make of it. If you try to do what other people want you to do, you're going to feel nervous. But if you try to meet your own expectations, then that's what motivates you. I can tell you my expectations are much higher than anyone else's. I feel pretty good going into this season.
"There's no discomfort at all (with Roberto). He and I are friends and we're still teammates. Having him around is not going to be any different than it has always been. I think, honestly, it's rarely awkward or uncomfortable moments or tension. It's more having to answer about it all the time which causes the distraction. I know you guys are just doing your jobs and it's a story. But he and I are fine.
"We've been very open about this with each other the whole time, and I think he's been a world-class guy about it - the way he has handled it, the way he has responded to what could be a very difficult situation."
After six seasons as the Canucks' starter — and two years into a 12-year, $64-million contract — Luongo lost his job to Schneider during Vancouver's first-round playoff loss in April against the Los Angeles Kings.
Schneider outplayed Luongo, his mentor, all season. And when coach Alain Vigneault, backed by the entire organization, decided to start Schneider in Game 3, the landscape in net changed permanently.
Luongo, 33, did not begrudge Schneider his promotion and asked to be traded. Gracious and patient, Luongo's still waiting for it and will report to Vancouver for training camp if need be.
Not only is it unwise to pay someone $5.33 million to take extra shots after practice and kibitz with the media, the Canucks could badly use the assets a Luongo trade should fetch.
With second-line centre Ryan Kesler out indefinitely, the team is reportedly interested in veteran free agent Jason Arnott, and Canuck winger Chris Higgins is standing by to fill-in at centre, which he played in Montreal. But Toronto Maple Leaf Tyler Bozak, or any other proven NHL centre with age on his side, is a far better long-term option for Canuck general manager Mike Gillis.
Schneider said he expects the best goalie to play and is willing to compete for the starting job against Luongo. But the toothpaste never does go back in the tube. Schneider is No. 1; Luongo will be the backup until traded.
Schneider, who was 20-8-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save rate last season, had a 3.22 GAA and .914 save percentage during his month with Ambri-Piotta, which is 11th in the 12-team Swiss League.
He has been in touch with Luongo, who spent the lockout home in South Florida.
"We talk about it," Schneider said of the crowded crease. "We don't joke around about it because it's a pretty serious matter. But we're pretty honest with each other. He's been a great friend and mentor to me and I hope this gets resolved in a way that suits him and the club and is the best possible outcome for everybody. We're mature, responsible professionals and I think whatever happens, we'll be able to handle it."
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