Ohhh my gosh, are you guys as ready for this as I am? I mean, I've only mentioned Buzz on this blog, like, once. Or twice. Or three times. And hey, remember that time I met him and got my phone stolen on the way there but he was so wonderful that it was still pretty much the best day ever? Okay so maybe I love Buzz a teensy bit. And in a few minutes, you will too! ;)
+ Buzz grew up in a tiny little town on the Iron Range, up in northern Minnesota, which meant he was playing hockey pretty much by default, as hockey's a way of life up there. But his town was so small that there wasn't all that much depth of talent on his high school team, so it was carried almost entirely on Buzz's shoulders. He played defense during his senior season (because his coach wanted him to be able to spend more time on the ice) and he still led his team in scoring. But his talents weren't only limited to hockey; in football, he played quarterback, defensive back, and kicker. And in baseball, he played third base and outfield. In fact, he was so good at baseball that he was getting Major League interest. But he decided to play hockey at the University of Minnesota instead (Herb Brooks recruited him without ever seeing him play, his reputation was that amazing) and also played college baseball his freshman year.
+ At Minnesota, Buzz was one of the stars on Herb's first of three NCAA championship teams, in 1974. He first played on the U.S. national team in 1974, and was on the team for the '75 world championships, where he became one of the first people ever (ever!) to score a hat trick on legendary Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak. He left school after his junior year to play on the 1976 Olympic team, which finished fifth. (Buzz was the only guy from the '76 team to also play on the '80 team!)
+ After the 1976 Olympics, Buzz turned pro... well, sort of. He'd been drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1974, but due to a management change he ended up in their minor league system (so still Olympic-eligible) and was traded around a whole heck of a lot. He was getting offers to play in Europe but Herb desperately wanted Buzz for the Olympic team, so he convinced him to stay stateside by all but promising that he'd make the roster. And, uh, that was a great decision! On the Olympic team Buzz played on a line with fellow Iron Rangers Mark Pavelich and John Harrington on the famous Conehead line, and in the pre-Olympic season scored 34 points in 54 games. But the Olympic tournament is where the Coneheads truly shined, as they were the highest-scoring line! In seven games, Buzz scored five goals (tied for the team lead!) and three assists for eight total points. His numbers included two goals against Czechoslovakia, in addition to the first goal against the Soviet Union and Vladislav Tretiak. (Remember that hat trick in 1975? People said that "Buzz had Tretiak's number." Tretiak is one of the best goalies in hockey history. Casual.) He was also so well-liked by his teammates that he was inches away from being voted team captain. Everyone loved him!
+ Buzz's epic Olympic performance got him an upgraded offer in Europe, so after the Olympics he was off to play professionally in Switzerland. He played on his fifth world championship team (uh, seriously) in 1982 and by 1983 was well on his way to making his third Olympic team. He actually made it as far as Colorado Springs for Olympic team tryouts! But unfortunately, his back went out, and a national team doctor told him he was at the end of the line. So he retired, right before the Olympic roster was named. He would've been the first American ever to play on three Olympic teams, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. :(
+ After he was forced out of hockey (can you tell I'm really bummed about that?), Buzz spent almost two decades selling tractor-trailers. He got into real estate in 2001 and started his own real estate company (no big deal) in 2005. That was going really well, but he put it aside in 2009 when he got a call from the U.S. State Department asking him to go to Turkey to help develop its hockey program. For real. He taught a school for their development program for two months and returned to Minnesota, thinking that was it. But it wasn't long before they called him back, and he spent six months as the head coach of the under-18 team and the general manager of the national team. How amazing is that?! And he says he formed great relationships with the kids he worked with and that several of them still email him. If that doesn't say something about what kind of person Buzz Schneider is, I don't know what does!
Also, his son Billy played him in Miracle and it's kind of my favorite thing in the world.
Also also, I can personally attest that he's the nicest person alive. I can't understand how a real person can exude so much warmth. And please note that on January 11, 2013, Buzz Schneider's day was made by ME when I told him I named my car after him. (I'm going to hang my hat on the fact that I made his day for the rest of my life, let's be real.)