Catching up with: Mike Schutte
In this second instalment of our new feature, 'Catching up with' we spoke to the 2012/13 Elite League defenceman of the year #27 Mike Schutte. The now 36-year-old Canadian played that single season for Blaze posting 12 goals, 46 assist for 58 points in 57 regular season games. That was most points and assists for a defenceman which earnt him a place in the first All-Star team. The Burlington, Ontaio native re-signed with the club for a second season but a job opportunity outside of hockey meant Schutte decided to hang up his skates after 11 professional seasons which had seen him play in the AHL, ECHL, Italy, Germany, Austria and finally in the UK with Coventry.
Q1. The obvious first question is tell us about Mike Schutte in 2016?
MS: "Myself and my wife Megan, son Jackson (4) and daughter Layla (8) are settled in a small town in Ontario called Beamsville which is 20 minutes from Niagara Falls and 45 minutes from Toronto. I am enjoying retirement from hockey and trying to play a lot of golf in the summer. I am your typical 9-5 working guy now and after work I like to take my kids to their activities and spend time with my family or watch my favorite sports on TV, which would be Baseball, Golf, and Hockey. NHL hockey has changed so much though in recent years it’s getting a little bit harder and harder to watch if you ask me. I do keep up with what is happening in the EIHL and it would have been pretty interesting to have the chance to meet Rod Stewart!"
Q2. You had the intention of coming back to Coventry for a further season but a job opportunity meant a change of plan. Are you still in the same job/line of work?
MS: "Yes I was signed to come back another season but I was very fortunate to get this job opportunity I got during that summer. I work at the same job I left hockey for which is the International Union of Operating Engineers and we are a Union who represents over 13,000 construction heavy equipment operators and Crane operators in Ontario. I always had anxiety later in my career about what I was going to do after playing. I never thought I would be so lucky to find a job after hockey where I can get out of bed and most days enjoy going to work. Another perk of my job is I get to work closely with my brother Kyle who also works for the Union in a separate department. Being part of - and working for our Union is pretty special and I am proud to say I am a brother of Local 793."
Q3. Any regret about retiring from the game when you did?
MS: "I have no regrets about retiring when I did. Not only was I getting older but my kids were as well, and each year it got tougher and tougher to move them away from grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and make them change schools and change living arrangements. I'll always miss playing the game but I was ready for family stability and like I said in the previous question, in the last couple years of my career I was getting anxiety about what I was going to do after hockey to support my family."
Q4. Are you still involved in any capacity?
MS: "I have been a fan watching my 4-year-old boy learn the game and I have been helping him improve but other than that I haven't been involved. When he starts to play competitive in the next year or two I could see myself coaching. Adam Henrich recently asked me if I would be interested in coaching with him in Toronto but unfortunately it's just a little too far of a drive for me to make the commitment. My work is involved in the Brad May charity hockey tournament for Easter Seals each year and I do play in that. It is a great cause and Brad May has been on our team the last couple years so it was nice to re-connect with him because he was playing for Phoenix Coyotes when I was at training camp with them my first 2 seasons."
Q5. You moved around a fair amount during your career, where was your favourite place to play?
MS: "My favourite place to play in my career was for the Providence Bruins. We had a close team who liked to have fun together at the rink, and outside of the rink and hockey wise we were a very skilled, tough team with a mix of great veterans and energetic rookies. I lived in a house with 4 teammates on Providence College campus and my defence partner Scott Ford was a recent graduate of Brown University, which is also in Providence. There was plenty to be serious about when it came to practice and games and we took care of business first - but when it was time to let loose it was like being in University all over again because we were all still young and when your roommates are going up and down to the Boston Bruins that meant our house in Providence was always full of University girls."
Q6. You spent the majority of your final years in Europe, a route you would recommend to North American players?
"This all depends where you're at in your career, your age, and which European league or team you're headed to and also who the coach is and the financial situation of the organisation. There are some amazing cities, organisations, coaches and extremely talented players all over Europe and the European hockey game can certainly round out a players skills and allow them to work to be bigger, faster, stronger due to a lesser schedule. To be brutally honest though there is also the 5 percent of cities, organisations, coaches around Europe that will suck the life right out of a player and their families. I have been fortunate and played in cities that myself and my family have enjoyed and I would recommend any one of them to any North American player - but I have also heard some of the horror stories I'm sure you all have heard about situations where players are not getting paid, bad living arrangements, travel disasters, equipment and arena issues. These problems are very rare but I would caution players to research where they are going before signing."
Q7. The nickname Shooter - obviously a twist on your name but do you re-call who first called you it and when it caught on?
MS: "I don't remember who actually was first to call me Shooter but it certainly caught on right away. It happened in my youth hockey years where to this day I am still best friends with all these guys I started playing hockey with 30 years ago in Burlington."
Q8. I believe you played eight NHL exhibition games, how was that experience?
MS: "Although they were exhibition games it was still a dream come true to play games with the Phoenix Coyotes against teams like Vancouver, LA, San Jose and Anaheim and I'll never forget it. At the time I was there Wayne Gretzky was a co-owner of the team and he was skating in training camp with us just so he could stay in shape and he would also scrimmage with us so I had the opportunity to play both with, and against him during the scrimmages. It was so surreal to be sitting beside Wayne Gretzky on the bench as he either joked with me or gave me advice. We also took a 2-day team retreat to a place in Arizona called Sedona where we did some team building, telling jokes, singing songs, and playing cards. These are card games the regular Joe or a rookie like me doesn’t want to play in as some of the pots got to over 20,000 dollars. I’m still searching for my #7 Phoenix Jersey as when I was younger I never thought to ask for it."
Q9. You won a number of professional championships including the Kelly Cup, Germany2 and the Continental Cup - any stand out for you?
MS: "My most memorable Championship was certainly the ECHL Kelly Cup in 2005 with the Trenton Titans (Jeremy Domish was also on the team). I keep my ring in my bedside table and I take it out often to show my kids or reminisce about that playoff run. That year was the NHL lockout so the ECHL was an even stronger league than usual."
Q10. 2012/13 Elite League defenceman of the year, first team All-Star, highest-scoring defenceman in the league. What a final season. Tell us about that year in the UK. Your thoughts on the Elite League, UK and Coventry?
MS: "I have always expressed my love for the UK and especially Coventry and that’s no lie. Coventry is a blue-collar town with hard working and friendly people. The recipe for my own personal success on the ice that season was simply because I was the happiest playing hockey that I had been in years and that is because I loved all my teammates, my coaches and management, my surroundings, and the fact that my daughter was loving her school at Spongate Primary and my wife was making friends with all the other amazing wives and girlfriends and people around the city that I had no worries but to go out and just play hockey. Going into Crosby’s after a big win was definitely much better than going after a loss!"
Q11. I re-call the season ended with defeat to Belfast in the playoff semi-final, your final professional game as it turned out (ignoring the 3rd/4th place match). Any particular memories of that game?
MS: "I don’t really have particular memories of the actual game itself other than the fact afterwards I wasn’t happy with my own game. I do remember the feel of the playoff weekend and it’s very exciting for all the players and the fans. The feeling brought me back to University where it felt like I was in the Frozen Four again. The EIHL is a great league and they do things in a professional manner and that weekend lived up to the hype. And, yes I agree, the 3rd/4th place game is ridiculous and I say that respectfully to the EIHL."
Q12. Are you still in touch with any teammates from that season or any who you remember particularly fondly – you played with Matt Beleskey of course now with the Boston Bruins?
MS: "I do try to keep touch with some guys through facebook or twitter and I also still follow a lot of the Coventry Blaze games seeing that a lot of my twitter followers are from the UK that it keeps me updated on what is happening in the EIHL.
"I remember when Matt Beleskey first signed with us and I was happy we were bringing in an NHL player but I honestly didn’t know who he was! By the time we were done and Matt was leaving I knew he was going to make it big. He is a player that can play in any situation of a game and you can put him on your first line or your fourth line and he will get the job done. We saw his character immediately when I believe it was the first period of his first game at home vs. Nottingham and he dropped the gloves. Matt could have came to Coventry and floated through the season and still probably done well but he worked his ass off every shift and it was a true pleasure to play with him and he was just as awesome off the ice as he was on it too. He is the definition of a good teammate and his success is very well deserved and I cheer for him every time I’m watching him on TV."
Q13. It was Paul Thompson's final season with Blaze. What type of a coach is he? How does he compare to other coaches you'd played under?
MS: "There are two coaches in my professional career that were able to get the most of out me and one was Thommo and the other was Mike Haviland who was assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks when they won a Cup and also my Head Coach for Trenton when we won the ECHL. Thommo is a master of creating relationships with his players and for me that relationship showed that he trusted me, which turned into confidence. He and Matty (Söderström) took my leash off and let me loose in a lot of cases to use my creativity and hockey sense which are probably my two biggest strengths. They had the trust in me that I could sometimes make the more risky play. Thommo and Matty had the unique ability to take a game or practice very seriously and have a plan but also keep it fun. I wish I could have had Thommo coach me in my early years in the AHL cause my career could have possibly taken a different path. Playing in Coventry was one of the most rewarding experiences of my whole professional career. I have played under several NHL head coaches and assistant coaches and Thommo is right with these guys or better."
We would like to thank Mike for taking the time to catch up with us and wish him and his family all the very best.
You can follow him on twitter here: @M_Sh00ter_27
Article: Craig Summerton @block15blaze