“Did that just happen?”
Those were the first words out of Carmela Schneider’s mouth as she and her husband Kelly watched in ecstasy and disbelief as their son Braden scored his first National Hockey League goal in his first career game.
It happened on Jan. 13, at 18:33 of the third period at the SAP Center where Braden’s New York Rangers were visiting the San Jose Sharks.
“I’m kind of a quiet guy, I cheer on the inside,” Kelly admitted. “My biggest thing (was thinking of) the people who weren’t there and able to see him. I mean not only the living, but my dad who passed away 42 years ago, the people who missed it.”
The Schneider’s journey to that unforgettable night began a few days before, while Carmella, an RCMP officer was at work back in Prince Albert nearly 2,900 km away.
“I was at my desk at work and Jason Davidson, one of Braden’s agents called me on my cellphone and said ‘Carmella how do you feel about flying out to San Jose tomorrow’ and I said for what, ‘to watch Braden Schneider play in his first NHL game against the Sharks’ and I just went, no way, you’re kidding,” she explained.
What followed for the local hockey mom was pure jubilation.
“When I think back to it now I’m not exactly sure what I did after that,” she explained. “I know I was crying and I called Kelly and he can confirm I was crying, but they were tears of joy.”
Schneider, the 19th overall pick by the Rangers in 2020, is one of the team’s top-ranked prospects, and was destined to eventually skate in the NHL. Even so, the emotional rollercoaster of watching your child achieve their dreams is something that a parent can’t compose themselves for.
“I really don’t think there is a way that you can prepare for it, I think that’s kind of the beauty of it,” Carmela said. “(As parents) you just encourage him and hope for the best because you know it’s going to come, but I honestly don’t think that there’s anything that can tell you that this is what it’s going to feel like.”
“You’re never prepared for it, never,” Kelly chuckled.
Navigating the travelling during the pandemic was no easy feat, although the burden was eased by the help of the Rangers.
The Schneider’s were tested for COVID in P.A., drove to Calgary, before flying to San Fransisco and ultimately driving in to San Jose, it was whirlwind experience for the veteran hockey parents.
“To try and jump through all of the hoops to go see your boy play hockey down in the states, I’m telling you with COVID and everything else, we were worried about getting there, we were worried about getting home, we were worried about everything,” Kelly said. “But we wanted to go so badly, we were going to sacrifice everything to go see him play.”
For the Schneider’s the trip was even more than seeing their son make his NHL debut, they were just excited to see him play live, something they haven’t been able to do in two years.
“In March of 2020 (our youngest son) Marek and the (Saskatoon) Blades were actually in Winnipeg and were scheduled to play against Braden and Wheat Kings in Brandon the next day, but COVID came and the WHL season was done,” Carmella said. “We were one day away from that live experience of watching the boys play against each other for the first time ever.”
It hasn’t just been a long time since the Schneider’s saw Braden play live, they haven’t seen him since late in the summer when he left for development camp with the Rangers. The post game-visit that the family shared is one that none of them will ever forget.
“Just being able to see him and give him a hug was probably just as special for me as a mom as being there for the game and seeing the goal,” Carmela said.
“You see this childlike, kid smile on his face, I don’t even know how to say it, you can’t say it, you have to see it,” Kelly added. “He looks like the 10-year-old kid that we saw 10 years ago and it’s in a man’s body now.”
After such a busy and emotional trip most people would be craving the comfort of their home and their own bed, but not these hockey parents.
Instead of returning home to Prince Albert their trip deviated to Saskatoon where they got to watch their youngest Marek play with the Blades.
“We were going to try and make Marek’s game in Swift Current on Friday night when we hit the ground,” Kelly Chuckled. “But we were pretty tired when we landed.”
“We were able to catch Marek and the Blades just in time for warm-ups,” Carmela added. “(We also watched) Braden’s second game on our phone as were had the Blades game in person. We’re good at that, we’re multi-taskers when it comes to watching hockey.”