Thursday, July 18, 2024

Millarville’s own Malia Schneider signs with PWHL Ottawa

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Millarville’s own Malia Schneider is headed to the PWHL after she signed her first contract with Ottawa’s team.

The 25-year-old started the season off on the reserve roster but decided to travel to Sweden and play for Brynäs IF in the Svenska damhockeyligan (SDHL).

Schneider made herself at home in Brynäs, popping in five goals and five assists in only 12 games. She would also play in seven playoff games for the team.

Schneider mentioned one of the biggest adjustments when playing in Sweden was the size of the ice. She said that her teammates were patient with her in the transition to playing on international ice and she appreciated what they did for her.

With the season coming to a close, she was offered and accepted a deal with Ottawa’s PWHL team. Now joining former teammate and gold medal winner from Sunday’s (April 14) IIHF Women’s World Championship, Brianne Jenner. Schneider played with Jenner on Team Sonnet in the PWHPA last season. 

Schneider would play in a total of 19 games with Team Sonnet in the 2022-2023 season.

“She is the captain of the team here, and I actually was on her team last year in the PWHPA. She is just such an incredible person; she just cares so much about the people around her. That attitude in the locker room and on the ice is just pure,” Schneider said.

“I have nothing but good things to say about her. With me being younger in the league and on the team and being only a few weeks in, she has been so welcoming and encouraging on and off the ice. Which is something I really appreciate to help build my confidence as I take this next step.”

The PWHL is in its first year, but the success is evident by the numbers they are receiving at the game’s attendance and the national coverage it’s been getting, giving women’s hockey some well-earned appreciation.   

“I know it hasn’t been around very long, only a few months, but it definitely feels like a dream come true. I’m very excited to even just be around the girls and around the environment. It’s pretty incredible,” Schneider said.

“Even just being able to watch women’s sports is pretty inspiring.”

She got started in the sport at the young age of six years old, playing on the outdoor rink and the Millarville Wildcats. Schneider joked about shedding some tears when she first started playing the sport.

“I may or may not have cried before I went on the ice, but now I cry every time I have to get off the ice. I think it’s a good trade-off. I started when I was six years old just playing pond hockey with the Millarville Wildcats, which I’m very proud of. I kind of just grew from there going to Black Diamond to Okotoks and playing a little bit, then going to high school in Kelowna and then off to university, to where I am now,” she said.

“Millarville is such a small town, there is not too many options, but at least they had some so I could start playing the game and learn to love it from there.”

Schneider mentioned that she was very lucky as a kid with her parents getting her to try out all kinds of sports like box lacrosse, baseball, volleyball, soccer, etc. Though hockey and box lacrosse were her favourites, hockey would win as her absolute favourite sport after reading a t-shirt about lacrosse when she was younger.

“It’s kind of a funny story actually, I was at a lacrosse tournament, and I saw this t-shirt they were selling, and it said if lacrosse was any easier it would be called hockey. I just remember being like, that’s so not true. From that moment on it just kind of clicked, I think I like hockey more than lacrosse, but I’m definitely still a fan of the sport,” Schneider said.

When asked if she had any hockey idols growing up, Schneider was quick to point out Red Wings legend, Pavel Datsyuk. If you were to look at some of Schneiders highlights, you can see the inspiration with her silky mitts as she can deke with the best of them.

“It’s kind of a little unfortunate that I didn’t have too many women hockey players that I could look up to other than the girls on the Olympic team which are obviously incredible. But the big person for me was actually Datsyuk who played for the Red Wings. I think he’s an amazing hockey player and I just thought he was so creative, patient, and his confidence with the puck is something I strive to have when I’m on the ice,” she said.

While the transition from high school to college and university then to professional hockey sees an increase in competition, Schneider has taken lessons from every league she has played in and continues to grow in the sport.

“I think playing college and university obviously the speed of the game is much faster than in high school or anything that I played before, but then also the dedication to the game. I was lucky in high school to go to a hockey academy, which I loved the time and effort our team put into just development was huge,” Schneider said.

“At college and university, I felt like the dedication and the focus is much higher, and I think obviously, now playing at the pro level it’s just another step. Every time you step into a higher league, each time it’s going to be more intense, more focused, more dedication, more time spent on the ice and training room. Just the speed of the game is the biggest thing and biggest adjustment.”

She played in 178 games and accumulated 110 points for Colgate University in the NCAA across five seasons..

Schneider explains that it wasn’t until high school that she felt she could make a run in the sport and have it become her full-time profession.

“In high school, I wouldn’t have put in all the time and effort if I knew it wasn’t something I was really passionate about. At that time, I was really just focusing on university and being able to play there because I knew that was the next step and the next opportunity that I could play. Then when I was in university a lot was happening with the CWHL, NWHL and now the PWHL. I just think being able to see the next steps, I have always strived to become the best player I possibly can and knowing that there is a new league and new opportunity really drove me,” Schneider said. 

While she was a captain for two years at Colgate University, she came away with an idea of what it entails to lead a hockey team. Schneider said the experience helped her grow as a player.

Ottawa will be back in action for PWHL hockey on Saturday (April 20) at 5:00 pm when they host Minnesota.

To see Schneiders soft hands at work, like her favourite player Datsyuk, click the video below. 

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