It’s 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night, and while most of his peers are lounging back after a long week at work, Justin Schmautz has got his whiteboard, marker and whistle ready, as he prepares to hit the ice for practice with the team he coaches, the Saskatoon Royals.
For over 40 years, Schmautz’s life has revolved around hockey, from watching his father and uncles to playing himself and taking his kids to rinks across the province.
Although his competitive playing days are behind him, he’s now relishing the role as both a mentor and a coach.
“Playing hockey as a kid, you know, playing senior right until I was 40,” Schmautz explains. “Both of my kids are gone, and done playing junior, and so I thought it was time to give back to the game that kind of treated me so well.”
It’s his experiences built through a lifetime spent around the game that has given Schmautz an abundance of knowledge which he is now passing on to the next generation of players.
“(One of my mottos is) respect everybody that comes into the rink, and have respect for the referees, and the team you’re playing against,” he said. “Just enjoy the game, having fun enjoying the game you love, (because) if you’re not having fun, it’s time to hang them up.”
“Schmautzy’s awesome,” Royals Captain Dylan Francis exclaimed. “He’s really knowledgeable of the game, with him playing junior hockey when he was younger.
“Just the confidence that he brings to the locker room, it’s really good to have him.”
That confidence came to Schmautz at a young age, as he was rubbing elbows with some of the best players in the NHL — all thanks to his uncle Bobby Schmautz, an imposing winger for the Big Bad Bruins of the 1970s.
“I probably was about eight or nine, and I was the stick boy for the Boston Bruins in Calgary and Edmonton,” Schmautz said. “So, I sat with Gerry Cheevers and Ricky Middleton on the bus riding from Calgary to Edmonton.
“So, that was really a powerful message there, and I got to look up to those guys.”
However, it wasn’t just his Uncle Bobby who played a mentorship and inspirational role in Schmautz’s life.
His father, Ken, and two other uncles played for the Saskatoon Quakers in the 1960s. Meanwhile, his two sons, Logan and Cayden, each played in the same league where Justin now coaches for the Saskatoon Royals.
“You’re a Saskatchewan boy, you’re living in a winter environment,” Schmautz said. “You love playing the game of hockey, you grew up here in the rinks on the west side and yeah, it’s in my blood and I just want to give it back to the kids.”