SportsPulse: Sports plays a vital role in our day-to-day lives as a means to escape. Mental health expert Eric Kussin says it’s OK to feel depressed over the loss of sports in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and provides steps you can take to address these emotions.
Cory Schneider felt like it was all starting to click.
Two demotions and a nagging hip issue were finally behind him. The Devils’ backup goalie had shown flashes of his old self by winning three of four games since returning to New Jersey in February.
An NHL career was suddenly getting back on track.
“For my career standpoint, it was a chance for me to play well and demonstrate that I could still play at that level,” Schneider said Monday in a media conference call. “Hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity to do that.”
Schneider and the rest of the hockey world had their life turned upside down on March 12 when the league went on hold due to COVID-19. At 34, Schneider feels like he still has a lot to offer, but when he returns to the ice remains a mystery. For now, he’s at home in New Jersey, trying to enjoy quality time with his family.
“It’s been good to be with my kids and be with Jill, my wife, and spend time with the family together,” Schneider said. “We haven’t had this opportunity my whole career just because of the amount of back-and-forth movement you have, always on a schedule.”
Schneider still carries a cap hit of $6 million for this season and each of the next two years, a concerning number given the recent output. His 3.53 goals-against average this season is one of the worst of his career and an .887 save percentage ranks near the bottom. The good news for Schneider is that he put up good numbers (in a small sample size) with the Devils after returning in late February. He helped them win six of their last 10 games by going 3-0-1 with a 1.50 GAA.
“To have it kind of be ground to a halt like that was shocking,” Schneider said. “It was stunning. But there are worse things going on in the world than our season being paused.”
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During the shutdown, Schneider has been working to stay ready for a potential season. When he realized the shutdown may last a while, he ordered some new equipment for his home gym. He likes to do yoga and stretching exercises to stay in shape. He compared life as a veteran goalie to a hard-throwing pitcher who has to learn out how to win with less velocity.
“It’s all about preparing my body and trying to be in peak physical condition because I feel mentally, in terms of how I see the game and how I can play, I know I can still do that,” Schneider said. “I’m excited to continue my career. I haven’t entertained the thought of retirement at all.”
One of the hardest parts for Schneider and players around the league is preparing for a season without a start date. Schneider is used to mapping out when to push himself in the weight room and when to pull back.
“A lot of guys are asking if there’s a drop-dead date,” said Schneider, a Players’ Association representative for the Devils.
“To be honest, I don’t have that answer necessarily. It’s got to be coming soon.”
Schneider said he hopes to get some more action this season and avoid an extensive layoff, but he realizes the logistics may make it challenging. It could be hard enough to get 16 teams up and running, let alone ones like the Devils, who are 13 points out of a playoff spot.
“Are guys going to be motivated to block shots and finish checks and do all those little things that could put their health on the line, or their health even from the virus?” Schneider said. “Are guys going to come back and potentially expose themselves and maybe their families if they have interaction? So there is some risk involved, but I think for most players, they would take those risks and come back just to play.”