(Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of what’s going to be a regular series here at SCH where we’ll reach out to other writers from around the SB Nation family to learn more about other writers’ history with the sport, how the Blackhawks line up with other teams, and some general hockey talk.)
Andrew Schnittker is definitely a hockey guy. Correction: he’s an all-around sports guy. “I ALWAYS knew I wanted to write about sports.” For the past few years that’s pretty much exactly what he directs his energy towards. Lucky guy.
Now to the hockey.
“I’ve lived in Raleigh since I grew up and my dad and I have gone to Canes games since I was a kid. My dad’s from Kansas city, so he didn’t have any affiliation with a team or interest in hockey at all back then. Once we moved to Raleigh, he was introduced to the game by a friend and he got into it from there.”
As for Schnittker, although he was happy to attend games with his dad while he was young, he does have a seminal hockey moment that sealed his love of the sport.
“I can remember, crystal clear, the game that got me into it.”
The hospital where Schnittker’s dad worked would offer the staff discounted tickets a few times each year, so that’s when they’d attend games. At one of these games, “late in the regular season in 2008-09, the Canes were playing the Penguins at home, and the puck went to Canes defenseman Anton Babchuk [Editor’s note: a former Blackhawks first-round pick!] who won the game in an absolute cannon of a shot, and that clinched a playoff spot for them.”
After that Schnittker said: “I got super into hockey! I went to high school right across from the arena as well. One of the perks of them being so bad was that, usually, if we checked StubHub on a weeknight during the game, we could get tickets for $4. So my friends and I went to a ton of games.”
As for the longevity and resilience of his lasting fandom? “I think I deserve some credit!” he said. “When I was in sixth grade things didn’t go that well, and the next playoff appearance since then wasn’t until my senior year of college.”
Back to this dream of being a sports writer. He started cultivating this talent early on and wrote about sports for his high school journalism classes. Fast forward to college, when he attended North Carolina State University and became the primary beat writer for the paper. “The sports editor at that paper decided they wanted to start covering non-university related games, and so I got to cover some Canes hockey in my freshman and sophomore years.”
This is how he met Brian LeBlanc, the managing editor for Canes Country. “The first game I covered, we were sitting next to each other at game. He helped me out with writing tips and we became friends.”
In Schnittker’s senior year, LeBlanc offered him a job at Canes Country.
Things took a slight turn in July 2019 when Schnittker took a job in the mountains in North Carolina covering high school sports for a local newspaper, so he missed covering the 2019-20 season.
“Until the world fell apart, and I moved back to Raleigh. I reached out to Brian, and he said he’d have some work for me back at Canes Country.”
So what’s Schnittker’s take on this season?
“(Hurricanes head coach) Rod Brind’Amour says there are certainly nights they haven’t played the way they should have. But I think this is the best start anyone could have hoped for, considering the circumstances. The Canes had six guys on the COVID list, then we had to play three games against Dallas without our keys guys there.”
As for Friday and Saturday’s games against the Blackhawks?
“It’s interesting because that two-game set in Chicago, those are probably two of the worst games the Canes played this season. We pretty much lost because of an atrocious penalty kill. But those were also the first two games where four players were just back from being off due to COVID protocols. Teuvo Teravainen and Jaccob Slavin have taken some time to get back to their usual level of play after coming off from the list, but they’re both now playing better. In this series (on Friday and Saturday) there is going to be a focus on playing more in their system and structure. I think we’re going to see more of the Canes looking like the Canes.”
Let’s throw something spicy into this mix.
Remember this hit on Patrick Kane by the Canes’ Sebastian Aho last season?
NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis pointed out that it looked similar to the hit Kane took from Alex Petrovic in the 2014-2015 season that cost him the final 21 days of that season. That was the only time the workhorse missed a large chunk of play in his career, hence, this hit was igniting some bad memories.
Here’s that hit from Petrovic:
To be fair, I didn’t give Schnittker the opportunity to discuss the potential for renewed (or new?) rivalries we might see during Friday and Saturday’s game. Perhaps — as I think Schnittker hopes — we might see some sort of contentious moments and hard-hitting play?
Thanks Andrew, now let’s go Hawks!