Beyond The Benches

Go Beyond The Benches w/ Rob Schremp

Rob Schremp, 28-year-old center, has had an extensive hockey career to date to say the least. He has represented the United States on the international stage in two IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships totaling 11 points in the tournament. In the Ontario Hockey League, Schremp began with the Mississauga IceDogs before joining the London Knights where he helped them claim the Memorial Cup in 2005.

The Fulton, New York-native was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft in the first round, 25th overall. He joined the Oilers organization in 2006 where he played a majority of his games in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Springfield Falcons. He returned to his home state when he was claimed on waivers from the New York Islanders. Over the course of two seasons with the Islanders, Schremp put up 47 points in 89 games before joining the Atlanta Thrashers.

In 2011, he headed overseas and that it where Beyond The Benches recently caught up with him as he is currently playing for Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish Hockey League.

Beyond The Benches: As a kid from Fulton, New York how did you become interested in hockey?

Rob Schremp: Growing up my father taught me all the sports: baseball, basketball, football, even wrestling. It was my Uncle Mike and my cousins Chris and Jeff that sparked my interest in hockey, along with my brother Tyler.

BB: Why did you choose to move to Canada to play juniors rather than stay in the U.S. and play college hockey? What went into that decision?

Schremp: As a young kid I was a huge fan of Tim Connolly and we shared the same coach and mentor Don Kirnan. When I was growing up, I always wanted to do whatever Tim did, so naturally I followed his path. As well as that I had some success as a young player while I played in the Ontario Provincial League at 14 and 15 so it was hard to imagine playing another four years at that level. My first year I scored 78 points at 14-years-old and my second year scored 93 points. I was looking to challenge myself more at the best possible level and at that time, it was the OHL.

BB: Were any schools recruiting you to play college hockey?

Schremp: Not really, because of my young age at the time. There were some schools that talked to my parents but at that time it was basically to say hello.

BB: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced after moving to a new country and a new league?

Schremp: Hockey-wise the challenges were the bigger ice – players are much smaller and faster here. Off-ice definitely the language barrier, but that is more fun than a challenge to try to talk to each other in opposite languages. It can create some very interesting conversations.

BB: You had early success in the OHL, how did you handle the on-ice success in order to stay humble and not get complacent?

Schremp: I had an amazing coach and person my first year in the OHL in Steve Ludzik. The success I had, to me, was more just trying my best for my coach and trying to help my team. One goal is that you don’t really care much about what is said about you, good or bad.

BB: Can you take me back to the 2004 draft and describe how you were feeling after being taken in the first round?

Schremp: It was a bit of a crazy day for me. I had 120 people from my hometown in attendance and was a bit of a wild card in the draft. Sitting there it felt like there was a giant spot light on me for the day and not particularly in a good way seeing how I dropped a large margin in the draft.

BB: You had early offensive success with the Scranton Penguins, did you expect your offensive game would make such a smooth transition to the AHL, and could you describe a few major differences between the OHL and the AHL?

Schremp: I went into my first year in the AHL with the thought process of getting back to Edmonton as soon as possible. That did not happen as I expected – it was a long process my first season but it was one that I learned a lot of how to be a professional from some really good people. Todd Richards and Dan Bylsma were two people that – looking back on that experience – were amazing helps along with a great veteran in Dennis Bonvie. The biggest different between junior and pro is the pretty obvious fact in that you are now playing against men instead of boys, and these guys are playing to feed their families, not the $50 dollars  a week for the bar tab.

BB: Can you tell me about your relationship with coach Craig MacTavish and how you got along because there are reports that you two butted heads over a few things.

Schremp: There wasn’t much of a relationship between the two of us. I spent a very limited time in Edmonton, most of my time was spent in the minors while I was with that organization.

BB: You were quoted in saying about the Oilers coaching staff “I’m just looking for a fair chance,” in what way did you feel that you were being treated unfairly?

Schremp: I spent a majority of my time with Edmonton in the minors – you don’t get a feel for a player when the player only plays seven games over a three-year period. A fair chance is to prove yourself on a daily basis.

BB: During your time in the Oilers organization your offensive game was clear for all to see, but your defense had some flaws. Why do you think you weren’t given more opportunity to play on the NHL level and did your defensive play have anything to do with it?

Schremp: Every player has their positives and negatives. Dale Hunter saw my flaw defensively and found a way to help me as a player and get me to understand the total game. I was benched in a pivotal playoff series in my draft year to teach me that there are two sides of the puck. I learned my lesson then and there. From that day on, I have always made an honest effort to play hard with and without the puck – maybe I just needed to be coached at the NHL level, didn’t mean I couldn’t play at all.

BB: How did you feel after you learned that the Oilers were waiving you after the 2009-10 camp?

Schremp: I felt like it was a good time to move on. I never really cemented any real sense of home in Edmonton other than a few friendships I made away from the rink.

BB: Following your time in Edmonton the Islanders picked you up. How did it feel to a hometown hero and be playing for an NHL team in your home state?

Schremp: It never really had a sense of hometown hero as I am five hours from the Island but it was a lot nicer to be five hours from my family than 40 hours. It was really nice to be that close to home and be able to have friends and family come and watch games whenever they could get a weekend away from their normal routines.

BB: I understand that when you got to the Islanders they had you playing on wing but were moved to center and proceeded to score 21 points in 27 games. How did the move to center help your game?

Schremp: Moving to center allowed me the chance to be more creative and have a bit more control of the puck and make more plays.

BB: Which position do you prefer playing wing or center?

Schremp: Center is my position of choice. Playing wing you are more or less constricted to one side of the ice and it requires a lot of speed. Playing center, you are able to use your lateral movements to find those wingers with speed at the most deadliest to the other team.

BB: Do you feel your experiences playing overseas have helped you as a player?

Schremp: The speed of the game, even on the big ice, is very high paced in the SHL. In North America it takes one player to make a mistake and it’s a great chance. [In Sweden] it takes two to three good passes to get a great scoring chance. As many people know, the Swedes are at the top of the charts when it comes to skill level and skating ability, as well as off-ice training. In previous years I just took contracts as they came. That turned out to be not so smart as I wound up in some pretty tough positions. I wanted to play for a team that had a history of winning and planned on winning again this season. I have landed in that exact spot as Skelleftea has been to the finals in the last four seasons and has won the last two.

BB: What are a few things that you are looking forward to the most about the upcoming season?

Schremp: I look forward to having an actual chance of winning games every night with a group of guys that are worth going to battle for.


Hillary McLeod is a public relations intern and Pacific Division writer for Beyond the Benches. She is also a sport management student at Brock University and a public relations graduate. You can follow her on Twitter @hillary_mcleod.