From The Blue Line To The Boardroom: Mathieu Schneider enjoying role with NHLPA

NHL Veteran Defenseman Mathieu Schneider Finds New Challenges In His Role With The NHLPA

As an NHL defenseman, Mathieu Schneider was known as an offensive force who displayed a combination of skill and smarts on the ice. Those same attributes are still serving him well now that he’s traded in his skates for a pair of wing tips.

After calling the 2009-10 season the final campaign of a 20-year career that saw him play for 10 different franchises, the New York City native found a stable home with the NHL Players’ Association as the special assistant to the executive director, a newly created position in 2011.

“I never really envisioned myself moving to Toronto and working full time in the office. That kind of happened after I made my decision to retire,” says Schneider, who still resides with his family at his Manhattan Beach, Calif., home in the summer months but works out of the NHLPA’s Toronto offices during the season.

“Stepping into the role at the Players’ Association gave me some certainty. I think that’s one of the things that guys have so much trouble with when they retire — finding something that’s meaningful in their lives outside of the game.

“For me, I feel very fortunate that I was able to find something that I love to do so quickly.”
Despite a wealth of knowledge accumulated over the span of his career, Schneider never heard the call of coaching, saying that in order to be an NHL coach, one has to exude a little bit of an “edge.”

While the 45-year-old Schneider still has not ruled out being involved with player development — especially working with younger 15-17-year-old defenseman — he’s enjoying his role with the NHLPA and sees himself remaining with the organization for the “foreseeable future.”

When Donald Fehr, who has been the NHLPA’s executive director since 2010, went looking for someone to fill the role of a special assistant, he said the ideal person was an ex-player who was respected by a “very wide swath of players” and had previous experience with union affairs.

Five years after hanging up his competitive skates, Mathieu Schneider remains close to the game in his role as the assistant to the NHLPA’s executive director.Five years after hanging up his competitive skates, Mathieu Schneider remains close to the game in his role as the assistant to the NHLPA’s executive director.

Schneider was that guy. Over the course of his career, he spent time as a player representative on the executive board along with the vice president of the Interim Executive Committee (2006-07) and a member of the Executive Director Search Committee (2009-10).

“The essence of what the union does is communicate with players and then act on their behalf,” Fehr says. “You have to be able to speak their language, and you have to be able to understand what they tell you. You have to have some familiarity with what they’re going through day by day as well as the large topics, major economic questions and so on.”

As Fehr spearheaded the NHLPA’s reorganization starting in late 2010, he got to know Schneider better and became more familiar with his business acumen. In short, the same skills that caught the eye of NHL general managers over the course of his playing career were exactly what Fehr was looking for.

“I got to know him quite well during that process, and I got to see him interact with former players,” says Fehr, who made his mark as the head of the powerful Major League Baseball Players' Association from 1985-2009.

“I got a glimpse of how his mind works. I got a real sense of his level of preparation and his dedication, integrity, sort of soup to nuts.”

Schneider’s first notable project with the Players’ Association was to team up with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s former director of player safety, to rid the game of dangerous hits.

Whether it is salary arbitration, reviewing hockey revenues, preparing for collective bargaining or discussing equipment and rules issues, Schneider has his hand in every aspect of business affairs dealing with the league’s 600-plus players. He also works directly with players to “educate them to make the best decision possible for themselves.”

“Essentially, I would say my role is to give Don a solid perspective of a player’s point of view on any issue.”­

— Mathieu Schneider on his role with the NHL Players' Association

“Essentially, I would say my role is to give Don a solid perspective of a player’s point of view on any issue,” says Schneider, who played 1,200-plus NHL games, in addition to wearing the red, white and blue in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and two Olympics (1998 and 2002).

“We do an awful lot of things. We have a small shop. I’m pretty much looped into everything that happens in the office now, and my job is to be able to relay that to the players and conversely, give Don a good idea of what the players are willing to do and what the players want from us.”

To accomplish that, Schneider serves on a handful of committees, including the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee, which he served on during his playing days and now as an executive.

With August and September being quieter months for Schneider, he has spent more time with his wife and four kids, but when the seasons kicks off in early October, he will commute between the NHLPA offices in Toronto and the league offices in New York City for meetings and other obligations.

While there won’t be anything consistent about his schedule once the regular season begins, Schneider remains a reliable voice for the players and a trusted confidant for Fehr.

“There’s no meeting that he can’t go to,” Fehr says. “There are a whole lot of meetings that I insist that he goes to. He’s virtually involved in all aspects of our operations.”

 

 

Photos By Getty Images
Issue: 
2014-10

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