Once Cole Schneider learned he was headed to the NHL, he drove home to Williamsville to surprise his parents. He did, but not in the way he planned.
Schneider’s parents weren’t home, so he used the house phone to give them a call. They got a jolt when the caller ID showed up.
“They thought someone was in the house,” Schneider said with a smile Thursday.
It’s a safe bet no one will be home Friday night, either. The Sabres host Columbus in First Niagara Center, and Schneider will make his NHL debut. Thursday’s practice was the first time Schneider had been in the arena since playing for Buffalo in the Bowman Cup high school showcase in 2007 and 2008.
“I had season tickets growing up, so it’s always fun coming to games,” the 25-year-old said. “It was a little different this morning.”
Schneider’s first big-league opportunity was a long time coming. After two years of junior hockey and two seasons at the University of Connecticut, he spent parts of five seasons with Ottawa’s minor-league team in Binghamton. Despite recording 83 goals and 191 points in 263 games, he never got the call from the Senators.
Sensing he wouldn’t ever get a shot, he asked for a trade. Buffalo granted his wish in February. He’s recorded three goals and 12 points in 15 games with Rochester.
“I was pretty excited when I got traded, and to get the call yesterday felt really good,” Schneider said. “I was just trying to play down there, and luckily it happened for me.”
The 6-foot-1, 199-pound winger practiced alongside center Ryan O’Reilly and left wing Zemgus Girgensons. Before starting his junior career, Schneider played youth hockey for Amherst, Wheatfield, the Regals and St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute.
“He’s paid a lot of dues to get here,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Want to see if he can do it at the National Hockey League level and rise up to the pace and the speed of the game and still contribute like he has been at the American Hockey League level.”