My Stanley Cup Story: Jeff Schultz
*This is the sixth feature of a special multi-part LAKings.com content series featuring various members of the Kings organization as the Stanley Cup makes its way around the world throughout the summer.*
To this day, he still hasn’t played a regular season game in a Kings uniform, and played only seven games in the Kings’ 2014 championship run.
But what a seven games it was.
Defenseman Jeff Schultz was signed as free agent by the Kings on July 5, 2013. He was put on waivers just prior to the start of the season, and after clearing waivers, was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ minor-league affiliate. Schultz was recalled once in December, only to be sent down two months later, without seeing any game action.
“It had kind of been not the ideal season for me, but playing down in Manchester was, I think, a good thing for me,” confessed Schultz. “I got to play a lot and help some of those young guys out and getting my confidence back really helped me.”
Schultz received what may be the recall of his career when defenseman Willie Mitchell sustained an injury late in the Conference Quarterfinal series against the San Jose Sharks.
“I knew that they had six healthy d-men, so it had happened during the year where I’d come up and practice for a little bit and then be sent back down. I never thought I’d get the chance to play,” admitted the 28-year-old.
Then, during Game 1 of the Conference Semifinal series with the Anaheim Ducks, quite possibly the most significant playoff series in the history of Southern California, and the first between the two clubs, defenseman Robyn Regehr suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury.
This opened up the door for Schultz.
“In the first game of the second series Robyn got hurt, so it kind of clicked that I would have to play the next game,” Schultz recounted.
The situation would have been challenging for anyone coming in, much less someone who had never actually played in a single game with his teammates. But Schultz used his time in Manchester as a guide, made a seemingly effortless transition into the lineup, and provided an impressively reliable presence when the Kings desperately needed one.
“I just took it as a normal game down in Manchester, kind of did the whole same pre-game routine and stuff like that, went out and played, had a great time, didn’t worry about anything, everyone made me comfortable,” Schultz explained. “The rest was history. I got to play a good amount of games and help the team get out of that series.”
Mitchell’s eventual return to the lineup ended Schultz’s run at seven games, but his impact and ability to thrive under a tremendous amount of pressure and adversity left a sizeable impression on his teammates, coaches, and fans. As close as the seven-game series with the Ducks was, the Kings’ chances of advancing would have been considerably slimmer had it not been for Schultz.
“Just talking with some of the staff, they just told me that not many people could come in and do what I did,” Schultz stated. “It made me feel good, and hearing that, especially from the staff, made me mentally stronger in coming back this year to insert myself in a more dominant and permanent role with the team.”
Although he didn’t play in the Final, Schultz was on the ice with his teammates during the Cup presentation, and his moment to parade the Cup around the ice was one he’ll never forget, but not for the obvious reason.
“I was one of the last guys to get it, and I got it, kind of did a small lap, and I came back to hand it off to someone else, and Justin Williams told me to go take it, do another lap, and spend some time with it,” Schultz described. “That really meant a lot, hearing that, because it made me feel like I was a little more a part of the team and contributed a lot more than I thought I did, so it was a really good moment, something that I’ll never forget.”
On Thursday, August 14, Schultz received a well-deserved reward for his part in the Kings’ championship run – the Cup itself, delivered to his home in Calgary.
The Cup spent about 20 minutes at the house while Schultz, his wife, Mackenzie, and a few of her family members who were staying with them for the day, got ready in the morning. The first part of his plan was to take it to the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary, a temporary home for seriously ill children and their families who are being treated at a nearby hospital.“We wanted to do something with kids,” Schultz commented. “We thought that they’re kids going through a tough time and a lot of them have illnesses that were not their choices, and we just wanted to put a smile on their face and try to brighten up their day.”
Schultz then headed downtown to his mom’s office, and because they had to park a couple of blocks away, the stroll to their destination turned out to be an interesting one.
“We were walking down the street with it in downtown Calgary and we got some funny looks, and questions asked if it was the real one,” recalled the Calgary-native. “We stopped for a few pictures.”
“They were very appreciative of that and we got a lot of smiles and questions again asked if it was the real one,” Schultz remarked.
A family gathering was waiting for them back at home, where a barbeque was had, champagne was drank from the Cup, and of course photos were taken. Schultz then engaged some friends in a game of street hockey, where the teams played to win the Stanley Cup. This time, Schultz was on the losing team.
“All my buddies were rubbing that in,” Schultz laughed. “There were a lot of smiles and guys probably thought they’d never have a chance to see it, let alone win it in a game of street hockey, so it was a lot of fun for them.”
In the afternoon, Schultz and a photographer took the Cup on a photo tour where they stopped at some of Calgary’s most popular spots to get some memorable photos. In the evening Schultz hosted some friends for another barbeque, and topped the night off with a stop at one of his favorite local bars.
“It was a long day, but it’s a day I’ll never forget,” Schultz summed up. “We wanted to spend as much time with friends and family and all the people that meant the most to us and helped me get to where I am today.”
Having done exactly that, Schultz reflected on the most poignant part of the day for him:
“Just having it at our house, out on the table and people walking in and looking at it and seeing the big smiles, and them being able to go up and touch it and look at all the past winners and all these big superstar names and realizing it’s the real one. A lot of special things have happened to it with a lot of special people, and they had the chance to see it up close and even hold it.”
Jeff Schultz’s name may have been an obscure one at the beginning of the season, but it will soon be immortalized on sports’ most iconic trophy.
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