Maine Hockey Journal

Schremp’s way back to the NHL begins with the Pirates

Portland Pirates vs Providence Bruins. 2015-2016 Preseason contest at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts on 9/30/2015. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates).

Portland Pirates vs Providence Bruins. 2015-2016 Preseason contest at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts on 9/30/2015. (PHOTO: Michael McSweeney/Portland Pirates).

PORTLAND – Rob Schremp still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

The 29-year-old forward is attempting to make his way back to the National Hockey League after spending the last several years overseas in the KHL, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden.

Schremp joined the Portland Pirates on a professional tryout contract in early September. He later signed a one-year American Hockey League contract with the team last week prior to the start of the regular season.

In the opening weekend, he finished with a goal and an assist for the Pirates.

“It was nice to have that taken care because it’s hard to play without a contract – injuries and all,” said Schremp. “You never know what can happen out on the ice, so I’m glad it’s done.”

Claimed on waivers by the Atlanta Thrashers midway through the 2010-’11 season, Schremp appeared in 18 games for the Thrashers but just managed four points. The team relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba at the conclusion of the season, Schremp rejected the team’s qualifying offer and signed with MODO in the Swedish Elite League. In 55 games, he tallied 19 goals, 22 assists for 41 points. He figured it was only a matter of time before he’d be back in North America with an NHL team.

“I was only getting a two-way offer from Winnipeg,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I wanted to play back in the minors at the time. If I went to Europe and had a good year I thought I’d be right back,” he said. “I went to Sweden and had a really good season.”

The calls never came, and that certainly gave Schremp a moment of pause to whether or not he made the right decision. He didn’t know if he’d ever play hockey in North America again. What turned out to be an intended short-term excursion, turned into a four-year hiatus that left him feeling trapped in an uncertain situation.

“The following season I couldn’t find a one-way deal and almost got stuck. It took a lot for me to get even this chance back to Portland. In hindsight, it might have been a mistake.”

“At the time you’re trying to make decisions on your career,” he said. “At the same time I didn’t think Europe would have been a bad thing for my skating. It probably hurt my career, but, in the long run, it likely helped me to be able to play at a faster pace. I probably burned four years of my career away from North America, but that’s hindsight.”

Schremp was a star in junior hockey. He played for the London Knights, considered one of the elite level teams in the Ontario Hockey League. The Knights owned by the Hunter brothers, Dale, and Mark, both who had careers in the NHL, exposed players to life as pro hockey player from an early age.

“They treated us like pros at 16, 17, 18-years old,” Schremp said. “They taught a lot of us how to deal with things that we have to deal with today, not only on-ice stuff but off the ice things like with the media. They also taught us how to be good people.”

Schremp won the Memorial Cup with the Knights in 2005, playing on a roster that was stacked with several players currently playing in the NHL as well as several former Pirates including Corey Perry, who led the team in scoring during the regular season with 130 points in only 60 games.

“It was great to watch him develop over time,” Schremp said. “His first year he was ok, the next year he was pretty good and the next year he was unbelievable. Not many people got to see that process on how he matured as a player and the drive and passion he had which is what got him to the NHL. It’s something that I strive for every day as well.”

Schremp drafted in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers found it difficult to stick with the NHL roster. He appeared in only seven NHL games over three seasons, playing primarily in the AHL with the Oilers’ minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, PA and later Springfield, Mass. In 216 AHL games, he tallied 47 goals, 124 assists for 171 points.

He later was claimed on waivers prior to the start of 2009 by the New York Islanders where he played the majority of his 114 NHL career games.

Schremp was coached by current Pirates’ assistant coach Scott Allen while he was in Long Island, giving head coach Tom Rowe insight to the type of player he’s getting.

“Every player that hits bumps along the way likes to go over and try (Europe),” said Rowe. “When they brought his name up. I didn’t know him as a person. I only knew him from a skill type of player. Scott had him on Long Island and said he was a really good guy.”

“On offense, he’s pretty much has a green light. I don’t want to put any handcuffs on him because he’s probably one of the most skilled guys in the league. He’s an elite level player in the AHL.”

Unable to find a comfort zone with the Thrashers/Jets, Europe looked like a good option for Schremp. It was an opportunity to see the world, explore Europe and play hockey. But, it also left a gap in his life as many friends and family members were in a different time zone, seven hours away.

“There is a lot of good hockey over in Europe, but you have to learn to appreciate the things that are here and what it’s like to be here. There were a lot of things I missed. That was a driving factor for me to come back over here.”

Schremp, who spends his offseason in Naples, Florida, was skating with his Panthers’ forward David Bolland, a former teammate with the Knights. Despite having a contract offer to play in Switzerland, Schremp said he was determined to find a way to stay in North America.

“I made a point every day to make a point while on the ice,” he said. It worked out pretty well for me.”

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