Published: 14 days ago
Courtesy of Pam Shebest
KALAMAZOO, MI — Peter Schneider is fluent in four languages, graduated from Notre Dame and is working on a master’s degree.
But in Kalamazoo, he’s more known as the player who is on fire around the net, earning him ECHL Player of the Month honors for March.
Schneider, 26, credits his Kalamazoo Wings linemates, Cameron Darcy and Lane Scheidl, for his late-season success and the numbers verify it.
When Darcy was sent to the K-Wings from AHL Syracuse on February 24, coach Nick Bootland had him center the line with Schneider and Scheidl.
In those 20 games, Schneider has 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 of his season-total 55 points.
“Cam is on an NHL contract so he’s obviously a very good player,” Schneider said. “He always skates the puck really well and opens up a lot of room for me that maybe I didn’t have before.
“It gives me more time to shoot or get into the scoring areas and in front of the net, too. He’s definitely done a good job with that.”
Scheidl said Darcy has helped both linemates.
“Darcy has really helped us with his skill and his talent,” Scheidl said. “He’s getting the ability to showcase that down here.
“He’s taken it and flourished with it, helping both of us. Me and Pete, one of our assets is speed so Darcy can get us the puck in certain situations, which is great.”
Schneider, especially, is thriving with the pairing.
GROWING UP IN AUSTRIA
A native of Vienna, Austria, Schneider’s first language is German. He became fluent in Slovak and Czech when he played hockey in Juniors.
At age 14, “I played in Slovakia for a year in Juniors and three years in the Czech Republic,” the forward said. “I had to learn Slovak going to high school there and Czech after that.
“I actually graduated high school in the Czech Republic so I had my big graduation exam in Europe and I had to take it in Czech.”
His ultimate goal was to travel to the United States, not only to play hockey but to attend a university.
“I had great role models like Austrian Thomas Vanek (University of Minnesota) and Andreas Nodl (St. Cloud State) who came here and played hockey at a university, which I thought was great because I could work on getting my degree and also play hockey at a very high level,” he said.
“I thought that was a great combination and the U.S. is the only country in the world that has that system, although I think Canada is starting to develop it a little bit better.”
Schneider played a year of Junior hockey with the Indiana Ice in 2010-11, then attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in four years with a degree in finance and economics and a minor in math.
“To be honest, I didn’t know much about (the Irish) before I came here,” he said. “They recruited me pretty early, a couple weeks after I came to the U.S.
“As soon as I visited the campus and learned about their reputation and their academics, it was a no-brainer decision for me.”
This led to his fourth language: English, which he also speaks fluently.
“Everyone says I don’t have an accent (when speaking English) but after a while you can hear it when I get angry or really tired,” he said.
After living on his own or with a roommate since he was 15, Schneider had a major lifestyle adjustment at Notre Dame.
“At first, like I think it is for anybody going to play in the NCAA, it’s just scheduling with a workout at 6 a.m., straight to class, being in class all day and then trying to still be awake enough to go to practice in the afternoon and then having to do homework after dinner,” he said.
“It’s a pretty tough schedule, but you get used to it after a while and start to get into a routine.”
When the Irish and Western Michigan were both in the CCHA, Schneider got his first taste of Kalamazoo.
“I played in Western’s rink,” he said. “Always tough games there. The crowd is right on top of you.”
As for the Lawson Lunatics — “I remember those very fondly,” he said, laughing.
Schneider and his Notre Dame teammates got the last laugh, defeating Michigan to win the CCHA championship in 2013, the league’s final season in existence.
Preparing for a career after hockey one day, Schneider is now working on his master’s degree from a German university.
“I have my books and I study on my own (in German),” he said. “There’s a forum or discussion online where I can talk to other students or a teacher but I pretty much just study my books then drive to Chicago to take my exams in person.
“Coach actually gave me a day off to drive to Chicago or I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
The personable forward has already had a taste of his future.
“I had a great job in private equity one summer between my junior and senior year (at Notre Dame) so that’s probably what I want to go into after hockey,” he said.
SMALLER ICE SURFACES IN THE U.S.
Besides learning English, Schneider had to adjust to the smaller ice surfaces instead of the Olympic size in Europe.
“I think at first it was a lot harder for me,” he said. “I had to get used to having a lot less time on the walls. You have a lot more room in Europe with a lot less hitting, but it also takes a lot more energy to skate the big ice.
“I actually like the smaller ice now. You’re quicker at going to the net. You’re closer to the net when you want to shoot the puck.”
The hardest part for Schneider is being away from his parents, two sisters and two brothers.
One of his sisters played on the Austrian women’s hockey team in several world championships but the K-Wing is the only family member still playing the sport.
“(Being away from family) gets easier over the years except around holidays,” he said “But the new technology like Facetime and Skype has made it a lot better.
“I get to see them once every couple days face-to-face on the screen, which has helped a lot.”
Schneider goes back to Austria during the summer and the first thing he does is eat his favorite wiener schnitzel.
“Some restaurants here, German or Austrian, offer it, but it’s not the same as back home,” he said. “The meat is different, the flour is very different. It tastes a lot different over there.”
Being home does not mean forgetting about hockey.
“We have a great group of guys in Vienna who come back, all professional hockey players, and we get together and we work out together, we skate together,” he said. “It’s a high level of competitiveness among our group of friends.”
FROM FLORIDA TO MICHIGAN
The K-Wings acquired Schneider in a trade with the Florida Everblades November 28.
“He was on our list when he was at Notre Dame,” Bootland said. “I love his puck protection and that was something we felt we needed.
“We felt there was more offense there than he had shown and that he was a guy who could contribute for us and who could be a top six guy.”
Bootland said Schneider was not an “offensive guru” to start but his hard work is paying off.
“We put Cameron Darcy there at center and that line has been arguably our best line and most consistent line since then,” Bootland said. “The three of them together have been outstanding and done a great job. Then (Schneider) started to get on fire.”
Scheidl said his linemate’s hard work is paying off.
“Pete’s been finding the back of the net, which has been huge for us going forward,” he said. “I think the biggest difference is he’s been getting the chances before but now they’re going into the back of the net.
“Even if he’s not scoring, he’s making a difference with his work ethic. That’s huge for us. He makes me and Darcy better players by using his speed and being relentless on the forecheck.”