Blogtober Day 21: Buzz Schneider

I was going to save my letter about Buzz for the 25th (because 25 was his number and I'm the lamest person alive, in case that fact has escaped you thus far), but today was a struggle; the OTC is re-carpeting all the rooms and today was my turn, which meant packing up my entire room last night and moving back in today when I got home from work. Well, I returned to my lamp and TV up on shelves I couldn't reach, no desk chair, and all the furniture ever so slightly off from where it used to be. Not the worst case scenario by far, but it was frustrating enough for some choice four-letter exclamations a couple of times as I tried to put all my stuff back. Ah, dorm life.

Basically, all I want to do right now is be a vegetable, but a blog post must be written. And if there's any athlete that can make me smile simply by existing, it's Buzzy.

Buzz is one of the many guys from the Miracle on Ice hockey team that pretty much nobody knows about, which is a damn shame. Like the team itself, people didn't really think too much of him, but again, like the team itself, he ended up surpassing all expectations.

He grew up in middle of nowhere, Minnesota (not too far from the slice of middle of nowhere, Minnesota where his Olympic line mate Mark Pavelich grew up), and was as good at baseball as he was at hockey. After high school the Pittsburgh Pirates invited him to try out, but pretty much every big college hockey program was offering him a scholarship. So he went to the University of Minnesota (coached by Herb Brooks) and won the 1974 NCAA championship.

Buzz was on the U.S. National Team from 1974-76 (including the 1976 Olympic team) before turning pro and playing for various minor league teams. He was on the national team in 1977 and then again, obviously, in 1980 when he made the Olympic team. At an absolutely ancient 25 years old, he was the grandpa of the group (the only returning Olympian from the '76 team), and people didn't really expect too much out of the guy that had been bouncing around the minors for several years.

The Boys of Winter says that Buzz may have been the "most popular and industrious player on the team," and could very well have been elected captain over Mike Eruzione because he was that well-liked. In the exhibition season, he played in 62 games and scored 42 points. He was on the Conehead line with Pavelich and Bah Harrington; they were the line Herb put in the game when he wanted to make something happen. During the Olympics, the Coneheads were the highest scoring line, and Buzz had 11 points in seven games (including the first goal of the game against the Soviets, no biggie) -- tied with Mark Johnson, who was named the team's MVP, as the leading scorer. Y'know, casually. Not too bad for a guy who was "over the hill," huh?

Buzz never played in the NHL (though he played pro hockey in Switzerland for several years and almost went for a third Olympics in 1984), which is probably why his accomplishments have sort of been lost to the general public. But really, he was a leader of the Miracle on Ice team in every way and he deserves WAY more credit than he gets. He was kind of a ridiculously talented player that Herb Brooks basically begged not to go to Europe until after the Olympics. And his stats don't lie.

But the thing about Buzz's mere existence that makes me smile is the fact that he's apparently the most wonderful person ever. Herb used to be on him constantly because he knew that Buzz had an incredible strength of personality and wouldn't be too bothered. He "exudes the sort of laid-back warmth and sincerity that makes you feel you've known him for ten years after ten minutes," never made a fuss, and an old friend of his has said he would've made a great pastor because "he has such a gentle way. He's always giving and thinking of other people." I mean, just listen to him speak. I want to hug him (and clearly so does that reporter)!

Basically, Buzz is everything I love in an athlete: he's an underdog, crazy talented and a quality human being. (And I named my car after him and it makes me happy on the regular. Awesome life choice.)

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1 comment :

  1. Hurrah for Buzz Schneider getting a bit of love:D

    It’s always interesting to think about how good Buzz was at playing baseball, and how he could have ended up playing pro baseball, but he chose to go to the U and play hockey under Herb instead. Just intriguing to think about the different life paths people could have traveled down. Also really just shows how talented a lot of the guys on the Miracle team were. So many of them were great at multiple sports. They really were very gifted.

    Good of you to mention all Buzz’s times on the National teams. He had so many great stories from them. I know he told one story in an article after Badger Bob died how during one game they were really struggling and everyone expected Badger Bob to come raging into the locker room, but he just turned it around, saying that the other team was playing terribly and that the Americans were playing like the Montreal Canadians (who were a Stanley Cup stealing dynasty in the 1970’s). I just love Badger Bob and Buzz stories. The world should have more of ‘em.

    Buzz and the Coneheads had a great Olympics. They are clutch and such a creative line. Very fun to watch. Buzz’s goal against the Soviets is awesome.

    Buzz’s personality is great, and even Herb liked to go out to drink with him after the ’76 Olympics. Even Herb couldn’t resist the Buzz charm.