Some say he’s a lazy egomaniac who is only destined for
disappointment, while others feel that he’s a victim of circumstance, harsh
criticism and bad press. The truth
probably lies somewhere in between, but for Oiler fans that truth has yet to be
uncovered. Rob Schremp firmly believes
that he’s been painted with the wrong brush and the time has come to set the
Stories of Schremp’s apparent lack of character began
circulating leading up to the drafting of the now 18-year-old native of Fulton
New York. It was those stories and
reports that caused his unpredicted slide to the 25th spot on draft
day, a shock considering the overwhelming opinion that Schremp was in the top 5
No one questions
Schremp’s potential, but obviously everyone has concerns with his
attitude. What exactly is it about the
London Knights center that has so many people thinking so negatively about this
“He’s very cocky and
he sure doesn’t lack for confidence,” admitted Kevin Prendergast, Oilers VP of
Hockey Operations. “His abrasive
attitude rubs you the wrong way if that’s not the way you want to be rubbed.”
No Media Darling Here
This can be true
especially when the glare of a dozen TV cameras and a myriad of microphones are
pointed in his face. When the media
spotlights are on, Schremp is admittedly not at his best, as even his short
trip to Edmonton in July would show.
“Sit down and have lunch with me if you have
that big of a problem with me and we’ll see,” Schremp brazenly told a TV
reporter during that visit. “If you
still think I’m a disturber after that then I don’t know, maybe you’re
the one with the problem.”
That sound bite,
when edited for TV, certainly comes across as confrontational or aggressive but
as Schremp pointed out recently, the true nature of the conversation often gets
“Yeah, it’s tough when you’ve got a bunch
of cameras on you and all that,” the explanation began. “Sometimes I say things that end up being
stupid but I didn’t really mean in that way.
Like what I told that one guy (in Edmonton), I was just kidding when I
said that you know, but you can’t tell that I was joking. I’m not trying to bust any balls, I’m just
being me and I’m being honest.”
It’s that honestly that also tagged him
with another negative report that claimed pre-draft interviews between Schremp
and the Oilers featured an exorbitant amount of foul language. The report in question indicated the Oilers
were surprised and possibly put off to some degree by the meeting.
“I use the F-word
when I talk to my friends and maybe I do swear too much but again,
that’s how I am and I didn’t want to go in there and lie about what kind of
personality I have,” Schremp explained.
“That’s what they want, they want to try and get a read on what kind of
kid you are so if I go in and act like somebody else then they’re not getting
the right read on me you know? It was
like I’m talking to you now, I went in and answered their questions and with
some of the questions you get tense and words just start flying out of your
mouth and you realize after and say ‘ah man, I really shouldn’t have said
Talent or Hot Dog?
national attention during the CHL’s Top Prospects game last winter. The showcase event for draft eligible players
is held annually with a national TV broadcast and Schremp used it to his
advantage by capturing the MVP nomination for his team. The center had three points on the night
including a highlight reel goal and spectacular missed shot that garnered him
rave reviews and harsh criticisms at the same time.
display is best described by the player himself.
“I just cut across
the slot, picked the puck up on my stick and then spun around backwards and
shot it,” Schremp recounted.
The lacrosse-like shot
failed to go in but the media backlash from the move suggested that someone in
the NHL would have their head torn off for even trying such a thing.
“It was just one
fun thing on one fun night,” reasoned Schremp.
“It was an intense game and everything but everyone’s objective going
into that game is to try and be noticed for something right? Part of my game is creativity and that was
just something creative that I’ve learned how to do. If I had just taken a regular shot I probably would have just hit
the defenseman right in the shin pads so I thought, what the hell, why not try
it? I missed the net but it got
attention. People will say ‘oh yeah,
you’re just looking for attention’ but, isn’t that the point of the Prospects
game really? You don’t want to just go
out there and look like everybody else.”
“I just see it as
being creative and during a game like that, it excited the fans because they
were pumped about it,” Schremp’s defense continued. “They paid their money to see the game and I’m sure they want to
see some stuff that will make them get on their feet. All I was trying to do was to bring some excitement into the game
and have fun with it. Some people
didn’t like it but you can’t please everybody.”
wasn’t too mad about it I don’t think.”
in Team (or in Schremp either)
and even some scouts have labeled Schremp as being a selfish player who puts
himself ahead of his team. That’s a
description that the Oilers have found to be anything but the truth.
me, that’s something we explored a lot.
We interviewed a couple of his teammates and they never said anything
bad about him and even after London’s game seven, Robbie never said
anything bad about the coaches or anybody either,” Prendergast outlined
referring to a situation where Schremp was benched during the London Knights’
playoff Game 7 loss.
much-publicized incident from last spring created a lot of ripples around
hockey circles. President and Head
Coach Dale Hunter chose not to play Schremp, fourth in team scoring, in the
vital Game 7 until the third period and even then primarily on power
plays. A puzzling decision but even now
Schremp holds no ill feelings towards the coach or his strategy and won’t say a
bad word even when given the chance.
“He has the best intentions for my career so whatever happened last
year I don’t think it was for the worst, I think they were making me a better
player,” said Schremp. “For me, I’m
just going to go into next season focused on playing and helping the team.”
The Knights surrendered two draft picks
and two respected players in order to acquire Schremp from the Mississauga
IceDogs early last season. Normally
there would be considerable pressure felt by the player to perform, especially
due to the price tag the organization paid to get him, but Schremp said the
Knights made the transition easier.
“I’ve never really even thought about it
like that to be honest with you,” he conceded.
“There’s pressure because they obviously believed in me enough that they
gave away so much but you have to go into the new situation and try and bring
whatever you can to the table that they want.
The Hunters were good to me in London and didn’t put any extra pressure on
me, they just wanted me to come in and be the player I could be.”
This year Schremp believes his role with
the Knights will be more prominent because he’s older and also because of the
graduation of a trio of impact players.
“We’re losing some key guys like Scott
Sheppard, Danny Bois and Dennis Wideman for sure so I think I might have a
bigger role on the team this year,” suggested Schremp, “Maybe take a step forwards leadership wise,
maybe a little more playing time and responsibility so that should be good.”
Immediately after the playoff loss, a
local London paper ran a story suggesting that Schremp and his agent, Scott
Norton, might demand a trade from the team because of the benching incident of
Game 7. However, nothing could be
farther from the truth.
“I don’t want out of London,” Schremp
stated bluntly when asked about the late April article. “It’s a good situation there and I’m excited
about the Memorial Cup coming back so I’m heading towards the season with a lot
of positive thoughts. There’s definitely
been no trade demand from our side although there’s always rumors flying
around, but there’s no truth to that one.”
Schremp’s mention of the Memorial Cup is
no pipe dream as London will host the tournament meaning he and the rest of the
Knights get an automatic bid to the CHL Championships.
“He’s got a great scenario this year,
he’s got a chance to play in the WJC and a Memorial Cup,” agreed
Prendergast. “I’m not sure he
understands the ramifications of being in that type of pressure competition all
in one year, not many kids get that opportunity.”
Schremp attended Team USA’s summer camp
almost straight from his July visit to Edmonton and had high hopes of erasing
last year’s poor tryout.
“I got cut last year but they went on
with a good squad and won the gold so there’s not much I can say, ‘They should
have picked me’? How do you figure when
they just won the gold medal?” Schremp laughed while still in Edmonton. “This year I think I have a good shot but
I’ll go in with a game plan; last year I could have been in better shape but
this year I’ve got my priorities straight and I’m focused.”
At the camp, the US squad that Schremp
was on struggled early but finished well; eerily matching the description
Oilers scouts gave about their key player’s performance.
“Well I’ll rely on two of our best scouts
who were there and both Lorne (Davis) and Stu (MacGregor) were disappointed
with Rob’s play in the first two days but by the third day he was outstanding
and played really well,” Prendergast said.
“But one out of three isn’t good enough when you’re a first rounder
going into that situation. He knew well
in advance going in there that he had to perform to the highest capability to
make that hockey club.”
“I thought I played pretty well,” said Schremp recently. “It’s the middle of August so you haven’t
played a game in almost two and a half months so you just try and get your game
speed back. Towards the end of the week
it was really good and I feel pretty happy about it.”
three points in four games; all assists, but there were offensive opportunities
that he failed to capitalize on as well including a penalty shot and a couple
breakaways. The center position is one
that is highly contested on the American club and one of the players Schremp is
competing with is his former Mississauga teammate Patrick O’Sullivan. Despite stories that the two get along like
cats and dogs, for his part Schremp denies that completely saying that those
reports are just another example of how he has been wrongly portrayed.
“Me and Sully are
good buddies, he’s a good guy,” he said straight-faced despite my doubting
look. “No, swear to God! In my rookie year I wouldn’t say that but
when I came back the second year me and him got pretty tight, he’s a different
guy then he was. The first year was a
bit of a gong show, he had problems and issues with his family and none of us
on the team really understood the whole thing and I think once it all came out
we were all like ‘holy crap’.”
Now, not only does
he consider O’Sullivan a friend but Schremp also lists him as one of the best
players he’s had the chance to play with.
“That’s a tough
frickin’ question man!” laughed Schremp when asked. “I’d have to say Dustin Brown and Patrick O’Sullivan.”
Schremp also added
that to him, O’Sullivan and Drew Stafford were the two players that stood apart
from the group at the U.S. summer camp.
His visit to
Edmonton has done nothing but fuel his fire and increase his desire to advance
to the next level. Schremp enjoyed the
challenge of working out with Daryl Duke, Edmonton’s fitness guru, and even had
the opportunity to spend some time with the club’s boss.
impressed the hell out of me with his determination,” Prendergast said back in
late July. “Anything Duke’s thrown at
him he’s responded to and he hasn’t complained once. He went running with Kevin Lowe the other day and Kevin loves to
run, he’s got those long legs and I now I can’t keep to him in a car, but
Robbie wouldn’t quit and he was out there with him for the whole run.”
the occasion slightly differently.
“It was good and
actually me and (Tyler) Spurgeon beat him!” the player
boasted. “I don’t know if he was going
all out or what but we ended up finishing ahead of him. I couldn’t believe what kind of shape he was
in, it’s unbelievable.”
Schremp says he
tipped the scales at the U.S. camp at around the 190 lb mark, his target
playing weight, and that his 6’ height is all he’s expecting now. Obviously his goal is the same as everyone
else’s in the organization, to play for the NHL team as soon as possible, but
admittedly Schremp doesn’t know for certain if he’s ready.
“I don’t really
have any idea because I don’t know what I’m up against yet,” he explained. “All I know is that I’m working pretty hard
this summer because I’ve finally realized what it takes off the ice to
play in the show, that trip to Edmonton helped me out with that. I’m going to go into training camp in good
shape and give it my best but whatever happens is up to Mr. Lowe and Mr.
MacTavish to see if I’m ready and if I’m not, I’ll go back to junior and work
hard to do whatever it takes to get to the NHL.”
as a playmaking wizard at the junior level, Schremp knows he still has a ways
to go and areas to improve on.
“I don’t think
skating is a weakness but it can improve, everybody can improve their
skating,” Schremp said. “I went to
power skating in Regina for a month this summer and I think it paid off for me
so I’m pretty happy with it. When I’m away from the puck, just getting to
the puck, finding the open lanes so I can get a pass, that kind of stuff. Maybe going to get the puck a little more
instead of waiting for it.”
“Rob’s got all the
tools to be a player in the NHL someday but mentally he has to get on
board with what’s going on around him,” Prendergast told Hockey’s Future
recently. “He has to understand the
process in every situation whether it’s with the London Knights, U.S. junior
hockey or the Edmonton Oilers. He has
to work hard, be consistent, be on the ice and ready to play and practice.”
Schremp knows in
his heart what the likely outcome of next month’s rookie training camp will be,
but at the same time, his competitive nature won’t allow him to think he’s
anything less than an Oiler until he’s told he’s headed back to London.
“That’s a call for
the management team,” was how Schremp put it.
“Mr. Prendergast said to me ‘if you’re ready to play this year and you
make the team, that’s great but we’re going to do what’s best for your career
and we’re not going to rush things’.
All I can do is come into camp in shape and be ready for whatever.”
A return to the OHL
and a guaranteed date with the Memorial Cup would figure in well with what
Schremp feels can be an extremely productive season both statistically and
“Last year I was
hoping for 100 points and I didn’t get it so I was pretty disappointed with
that,” he said. “It was a positive year
though and it’s not always about points, it’s about what kind of learning
experience you had and how you can be a better player next year. I think I’m capable of (100 pts) and I
should be able to get that this year but it all depends on how the season pans
out because sometimes that’s out of your control.”
still have one of the best teams in Canada I believe,” Schremp added. “We have a lot of players coming back and
we’re not losing that many players so it’s going to be a good year I
think. Even if we didn’t have the
Memorial Cup coming I think we have a contending team.”
Love for the game
Schremp has been quoted as saying he wants to shove it down
the throats of the 23 teams that passed on him at the draft but his true
motivation stems from his long burning love for playing hockey. On draft day when asked if the move to
Edmonton would be a negative because of the distance from his New York home,
Schremp’s reply was basic and from the heart.
“No way man, I just
want to play hockey!”
The youngster from New York State chose the path to the NHL
that veers through Canadian junior instead of college for much the same reason.
“It’s a much faster
route to my dream and I think guys develop a little later in college maybe,”
Schremp’s explanation began. “I thought
the OHL was a faster route because it’s like a mini NHL, same rules and similar
schedule with 70 games. I love
hockey; I want to practice everyday and I want to be playing as many games as
possible and in college they only play 35 games or something and I don’t think
I could sit around that long…it might kill me.”
“It wasn’t a tough
decision; ever since I was a kid I knew I wanted to go,” said Schremp of the
OHL. “I always looked up to Tim
Connolly, he’s a buddy of mine, and Dustin Brown went the year before I did and
he had success and he had so much fun so I thought it was right for me. My mind was set even before the draft so I
knew I was going to the ‘O’.”
Child or Franchise Player?
The Oilers admit
that drafting Schremp was akin to taking a homerun swing; there is no in
between, the outcome is either a smash hit or a strikeout. That said, the organization is confident
they’ve drafted well and both the player and the team will be able to ride out
any growing pains that arise.
he’s good, there’s nothing wrong with knowing that and if you go out there and
back it up on the ice then certainly your teammates will respond along with you
and I think he’s going to do that in training camp,” assured Prendergast. “He’s going to come into training camp and he’ll
be around some quality veterans on this hockey club and he’s going to see what
it takes to be on the ice with them. I
think he’ll win the players over in the dressing room and that’s what young
kids have to do, they have to earn their spot on the hockey club and down the
road we think he’ll do that.”
Schremp shrugs off
media criticism and argues that there is a difference between being cocky and
being sure of one’s abilities.
“I’m confident, I
mean, I know that I can play the game but the difference is that
cockiness is going around telling everybody what you think of yourself,” the
player explained. “If you ask me
I say that yeah, I think I can play the game but it’s going to take a lot of
hard work and a lot of dedication to make the Oilers team. They’ve got a good squad and it will be
tough to crack a line up like this.”
Despite being asked
leading questions where he had the opportunity to respond to those he has been
reported to have had run ins with, Schremp instead took the high road every
time. Whether it was about the management
in London, rival players or media rumors, Schremp did not stoop to the level
that his many critics have when slamming him in the past. Even when confronted with the fact he wasn’t
Edmonton’s highest goal scorer in the recent draft, a surprise to him, he took
it in stride.
“Did he really?” A
stunned Schremp quickly replied with a smile when told Liam Reddox had
outscored him. “How many did he have?”
In a lot of ways
the young man has maturing to do but already he is showing signs that he’s
doing just that. Like any 12-step
program out there, acknowledging that there is a problem is the first hurdle
and Schremp knows his relations with the media need to improve.
Schremp’s goal in
life is laid out in front of him and he’s focused on nothing else.
“For me, playing in
the NHL would be a dream come true,” concluded Schremp. “I think being able to play in the best
league in the world and being known as one of the elites would be pretty neat.”
The Oilers think
that would be pretty neat to see too.
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