In the CHL Top Prospects game in 2004 in London, Rob Schremp was coming up the ice as part of Team Orr. As he crossed the blue line, Schremp scooped up the puck and cradled it on his stick. Then, lacrosse style, Schremp spun around and whipped a shot at the net.
Everyone who was there will remember the puck going wide.
The truth is, it was going in until it hit something — a stick, a body. Whichever it was, the puck just grazed it, but it was enough to change the trajectory of the shot and sent it past the post instead of inside the post.
That moment seemed to play itself out as Schremp’s NHL career began. He did some amazing things for the Edmonton Oilers, the New York Islanders and then the Atlanta Thrashers but something always seemed to deflect him away from a permanent National Hockey League job.
He went to MODO in Sweden in 2011 and began a true European tour. His skills made him a fan favourite everywhere he played. Schremp returned to the American Hockey League in 2015-16 and played in the All-Star game. He returned to Europe for two more seasons, but then made a decision that he called the “hardest he has ever had to make.”
Schremp announced his retirement from hockey on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
“I loved every bit of it. I loved getting ready for the game. The camaraderie, the competitiveness. Everything you get in hockey you battle for.”
Schremp came from Syracuse to the Ontario Hockey League as the first overall pick in the 2002 OHL Priority Selection. He brought with him a willingness to attempt wizardry on the ice.
But Schremp wasn’t just about the tricky stuff.
As Knights fan Dave Heald put it, “He had an office just like Ovechkin. His was on the other side of the ice. How many one-timers found the back of the net? He was a huge part of that team and will always be remembered as a London Knight great.”
Schremp put up 386 total points in the Ontario Hockey League in his time with the Ice Dogs and the Knights.
To put that in perspective, Corey Perry is London’s all-time scoring leader.
He had 380 points.
Schremp brought energy to his teams on and off the ice. In retiring, he admitted that was also a coping mechanism.
He wrote in a post on Facebook, ”My teammates have all known me as the team comedian, someone constantly providing the laughs and entertainment. This is a role I so desperately needed to help me battle my bouts of depression and anxiety. I find the silence so painful, so dark, that I need to fill the void with noise. I have always drowned out the palpable darkness with distraction. I viewed my struggles as a weakness, and like everything else; I played through it. I was not going to let depression or anxiety get in the way of my goals. My anxiety got so bad that I worried there was something really wrong with my brain. I was constantly battling myself, my brain felt like it kept skipping. After 20 years of suffering, I finally accepted it was too much, I needed help. I was prescribed anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants. The darkness lifted. I was playing some of the best hockey I had in years. I was no longer trapped in my own brain. I felt human and I was finally enjoying life.”
When asked how it felt to retire from the game that has been so much of his life for as long as he can remember, Schremp used the words, “It’s like an exhale.”
He is now focused on a new job as he helps to create an endocannabinoid nutrition line for athletes.
Hockey is not completely gone from his life. He isn’t quitting, he is retiring.
“I’m playing men’s league,” Schremp says with more than a hint of excitement.
Anyone who winds up on the other side of the ice had better do a little pre-scouting on YouTube. Schremp once scoring on that lacrosse spin-a-rama — on a 3-on-2 rush into the offensive zone. And he might try it again at any moment.
“You have to,” he says and you can just hear the smile spreading across his face. “You have to show them you still have it.”
Rob Schremp has it. And hockey has been lucky to have him.