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Mathieu Schneider

(1969 - )

Schneider, the all-time leading Jewish scorer in NHL history, is one of the top scoring defensemen in the NHL. Currently a member of the Detroit Red Wings, Schneider was an All-Star in 2002-03 as a member of the Los Angeles Kings (he was traded mid-season). The Red Wings finished the regular season with a record of 48-21-11-2, first place in the Central Division . The team captured the President's Cup as the team with the most regular season points (109). Schneider played in 78 games and finished fifth on the team with 46 points -- 14 goals and 32 assists (fourth on the team). Detroit defeated Nashville in the first round of the NHL playoffs, and then lost to the Calgary Flames in the Conference semifinals. Schneider had one goal and two assists in the playoffs.

A good all-around defenseman who is equally comfortable handling the puck or scoring on the power play (he once had 11 power play goals in one season), Schneider has won a Stanley Cup with Montreal, appeared in two All-Star games (with the 1996 Islanders and the 2003 Kings), and was a member of the 1998 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

Schneider's mother converted to Judaism when she married his father, and Mathieu says, "I am a proud Jew and I will bring up my kids to be proud Jews." During the 1991 season, in a game between the Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres, one of the Sabres unleashed a torrent of abuse at Mathieu, including using the word "Jew" in a perjorative tone. Schneider said, "That was the first time I heard any of that stuff. I made a mental note that the next time I had a chance, I would run the guy into the sideboards. And I did."

Schneider was coached by his father as a child. Even as a youngster, he played defense because, "my father thought you could learn the game better from defense. It's more of a thinking position than playing wing. You get to see the whole play in front of you. You're more of a quarterback playing defense." This early development paid off when Schneider was drafted in 1987 by the Montreal Canadiens as their fourth pick (44th overall).

Schneider quickly became Montreal's best defenseman and was a solid presence in front of goaltender Patrick Roy. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1992-93. The following season, Mathieu led the Montreal defense in scoring and had career highs in goals scored (20), and total points (52). One of the NHL's best point men on the power play, Schneider had an outstanding 11 power play goals.

The Canadiens traded Schneider to the New York Islanders in April 1995, and the next season he played in the NHL All-Star Game. In 1996, the Islanders traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and that year, he played on the U.S. team that won the World Cup. In 1998, Mathieu was a member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Nagano (the first time the U.S. sent professional players to the Olympics).

In the 1999-2000 season, Schneider played in 80 (of 82) games, scoring 10 goals and 20 assists for the New York Rangers. His 30 points placed him first among the team's defensemen. But with a new GM and coach arriving in NY, Mathieu signed as a free agent with the L.A. Kings. In 2000-01, Schneider played in 73 games, and had 16 goals (seven power play and one short-handed), 35 assists (19 power play and one short-handed), and 51 total points, along with 56 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of 0.

That season, the Kings finished with a record of 38-28-13 (92 points), seventh in the Western Conference. L.A. then upset the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings, 4-2, in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Kings faced the Colorado Avalanche and lost in a fiercely contested seven-game series. Mathieu had nine assists in the playoffs.

In 2001-02, Schneider returned to the Kings and was an important member of their defense. In November, however, Mathieu was placed on injured reserve, and missed 23 games following hernia surgery. He was reactivated on January 2, 2002, played in 55 games and registered seven goals and 23 assists, along with 68 penalty minutes and a +3 rating (his 30 points was seventh on the team and second among defensemen). In the playoffs, the Kings played the Colorado Avalanche and lost a tough seven-game series for the second year in a row.

In 2002-03, Schneider began the season with the Kings and was a member of the West squad in the NHL All-Star game. In his second All-Star appearance (the first was in 1996 while with the New York Islanders), Mathieu registered two assists in the game; and the West won, 6-5, in the first-ever All-Star shootout in NHL history. During the season, he was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Among NHL defensemen during the regular season, Mathieu ranked in the top ten in points (sixth overall), goals (fifth), power play goals (second), power play assists (seventh), and power play points (second).

The Red Wings finished the regular season in first place in the Central Division with 104 points and a record of 48-20-10-4. The Red Wings were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and played the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. In one of the biggest surprises in NHL playoff history, Detroit was swept by Anaheim, 4-0 (all four losses were by one goal, two in overtime).

Sources: Jews in Sports