You'll Never Guess Who Moved Across the Street

It was the summer of 2014. I was getting ready for 7th grade, preforming the most important task of any middle-school aged kid in the 21st century during summer: playing video games. That spring I had experienced my first true heartbreak as a hockey fan, watching the Flyers fall to the Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Other than that season, my hockey memories were few and far between. I had always been more of a baseball kid growing up, a feeling only further solidified by the Phillies World Championship in 2008, on my 7th birthday none the less. Before the 2013-14 season, by only Flyers memories were watching Game 7 against Boston in 2010 on a small screen in the den with my dad and best friend, and than flipping the TV we had in a hotel room in the Poconos for my sister's soccer tournament between Game 1 against the Blackhawks and Roy Halladay's perfect game bid against the Florida Marlins. No Game 6 heartbreak, no Carter-Richards trade, no 2012 Penguins memories, nothing.

Let me just give a bit of backstory. The small, Philadelphia suburb is not exactly foreign to sports stars. A lot of players, such as Danny Briere, Brian Boucher, and even the great Ilya Bryzgalov live in my town. Located only 10-15 minutes away from the arenas but far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city just seems to fit many players. Our neighbors had just put their house up for rent , and I really didn't care who moved in. Until one August day when my sister walked in my room and told me seven of the most memorable words in my life, "You'll never guess who moved across the street."

Before I even had the chance to say anything, she told me, "A Flyers player," which naturally got my attention. When I asked her who, she said, "Some new guy, I think his name is Nick." Nick Grossman was still on the team at the time, but I asked her and that wasn't it. So I grabbed my laptop and looked up new Flyers signings. And there I saw the words, "Flyers sign D Nick Schultz to 1-year contract."

As only a casual, if that, hockey fan, I had no clue who Nick Schultz was, as I'm sure many people did when the Flyers signed him. I looked up his stats. They weren't that impressive - only 27 goals in about 900 games at the time, but I saw a large part of his career had been spent with the Minnesota Wild. At the time, he was 1st in games played (now second behind Mikko Koivu) and 1st in blocked shots in Wild franchise history. Ok, I thought. At least he's not a total bum.

The Schultz's moved in a couple days later, and I believe that the night after was the first time I met them. Walking over from my house to theirs, I wondered to myself, "What would this guy be like?' Hockey players have a reputation for often being the nicest of professional athletes, but I still remember being very nervous as I walked across the street and towards the Schultz house with the rest of my family.

When we first rang the doorbell, we were greeted by his wife. I expected the house to look like a mansion inside, but it just seemed like a normal house. And then I saw him. Nick Schultz. The Nick Schultz. Admit it, you're all jealous of me right now. His three kids came down the stairs as we introduced ourselves. They seemed really nice. What by far however took me away was the humbleness. Here was this guy, a professional hockey player for over a decade, and he seemed just like any other adult I had ever met. Except I didn't want any of their autographs.

That first year was by far Nick's best as a Flyer. After being healthy scratched the first game of the year against Boston, Braydon Coburn broke his foot, giving Nick the chance to prove himself. And boy did he ever. It was evident that Nick Schultz that first year was one of the Flyers best, if not the best, defensive defenseman. He scored 2 goals and 13 points, was a +2, and lead the team in blocked shots. His efforts earned him a permanent spot in the lineup, a nomination for the Bill Masterton Trophy, and a 2-year, 2.25 mil contact extension. Over that year, we really got to know Nick and his family, and it was a pleasure. Our families became really good friends. We celebrated so hard for each of those 2 goals. I remember not being home one day in March when we were playing a critical game against Boston. I was with my parents and told them, "It's time for a Nick Schultz clap bomb." Not even 20 seconds later, my phone went off, and I looked down to see the notification, "Flyers goal.scored by Nick Schultz (3). Flyers lead Bruins 3-2 with 3:01 left in the 3rd," and instantly fracked out. Unfortunately, the goal was changed to Chris VandeVelde (ugh), and even worse, the Flyers wound up choking late and eventually lost the game in OT, 4-3 (UGH!).

Eventually, though, that dream year ended. The Flyers failed to reach the playoffs. Our neighbors were coming back, and the Schultz's left to Canada for the summer. When they came back, they wound up buying a new home. Farther away from us, now a few blocks, but they were in still in Haddonfield. Nick played solid year last season. Once again, he was a good defensive presence and solid PKer. Not an elite player by any means, but a serviceable 3rd pair D-man. He only had 10 points and 1 goal, but I remember that one better than the other 2. It was just a few minutes after I had gotten home from my friends state championship basketball game (they won) and Nick got the puck off a PEB face off win and just blasted it past Braden Holtby. I wasn't expecting it, heck, Holtby wasn't expecting it, based on his reaction, I don't think Nick was expecting that puck to go in. But it did, and an already hype me ran around the house and started screaming, "Nick! Nick Nick!" It was so great. Nick was out there when the Flyers clinched the playoff spot against Pittsburgh in Game 81, and was tasked with being strapped to Ovi for the entirety of the playoffs, and he blocked one shot after, and was mentioned in Charlie's 10 things from Game 6, under players who played well during the series.

This year has been a more frustrating one for both Nick and I. He's gone from an everyday starter to last on the depth chart, and I could tell it must be upsetting for him. Especially when I know that he could play just as good as AMac or Manning In the 28 games he has played in this year, he's been the same Nick Schultz he has been since day 1 with the Flyers. Good in his own zone, solid on the penalty kill, and not exactly an offensive dynamo (although that breakaway against Tampa though, am I right?). While I'm sure Hextall could've gotten a 4th or 5th round pick for Nick, I'm glad he hung on to him. At first, I kinda wanted Nick to get traded to a contender to give him a legit shot at the Stanley Cup. But I don't think I could've bared to watch those final few games if he was moved.

But for as much as I love "Mr. Schultz," I know his days are numbered.There's a better chance Vegas takes AMac in the expansion draft than that Nick resigns with the team, even on a 2-way deal. Hopefully he can help some contending team with a need for a solid 3rd pair shutdown dman next year. But that doesn't mean I won't miss him, or his family. He's become a superstar for me in NHL 17. In my season mode with the Flyers, I made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 7. Overtime. Loose puck in the corner, Jake Voracek, back to Radio Gudas, across to Nick Schultz, one-timer... scoreeeeeeeee!!!!!!! And than with the press of a button, Nick Schultz proceeded to dab on Gary Bettman, Sindey Crosby, AMac the NHL, and the entire San Jose Sharks organization (our opponent in that series) and, as captain of the team (yeah, I stripped Giroux of the C and gave it to Nick), saw him lift the Stanley Cup over his head in front of a sellout crowd at the Wells Fargo Center. Then, just a few days later, Schultz scored a similar one-time goal from the top point to win my first Division 1 title in HUT (for those who don't play, winning the Div 1 title is basically the Stanley Cup of Ultimate Team).

A lot of you who listen to BSH Radio might be thinking, "Wow! You must know that kid who called into the Trade Deadline episode and said he was Nick Schultz's neighbor too!" Yeah, that was me, and boy did that take a lot of guts and rehearsals to do (lol). Bill, Kelly, Steph, and Charlie, I highly doubt you're reading this right now, but if you are, to answer your questions:

- I have not had a barbecue at Nick Schultz's house, but I have roasted marshmallows

- He has never signed for a package of ours

- Nor has he put out our trashcans, HOWEVER, perhaps the most underrated skill of Nick Schultz is his neatness in putting out his own trash cans

I know that many people will not care as Nick Schultz's Flyers career likely wraps up this year, and that's ok. Nick Schultz was an ok player, not a great one, as a Flyer. But you've gotta be pretty damn good to play for 15 years and over 1,000 NHL games, and he is probably one of the better defenseman to play in a Wild uniform of all time, even in their brief 17 year history. And I'll leave on this final point: in order to win a Stanley Cup, you need plenty of flashy goal scorers and puck handlers like Kane, Crosby, Stamkos, Ovi, etc. But just as important in that pursuit are the Nick Schultz's of the world, the guys who do the dirty work and often get little credit for it. Thank you to so much to everyone to has read even a fraction of this 1800-word fan post. Nick Schultz, I always remember you, not just as my favorite player, but the man who made not just a Flyers fan, but a hockey fan. It's been nice to know you Mr. Schultz, and I will miss seeing you in a Flyer uniform forever.

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.