Mathieu Schneider's Heritage Classic appearance makes more sense now

Former Canadiens defenceman Mathieu Schneider was announced as a special assistant to NHLPA boss Donald Fehr on Wednesday.

It seemed a little peculiar to see former NHL defenseman hanging out, with members of his family, in one of the media rooms during last weekend's Heritage Classic.

He wasn't part of the roster for Saturday's Alumni game, and Habs team organizer Brian Skrudland said he didn't even know he was going to be there. "No, it's too cold for me," Schneider replied with a grin, when I asked if he might be playing. It was then noticed that Schneider's family were not the only ones with him.

A familiar face was practically shadowing Schneider wherever he went. A quick glimpse at the other guest's credential tag, revealed the name Jim McKenzie, a former NHLer and now a divisional player rep.

So with Wednesday's announcement by the NHLPA, Schneider's weekend appearance made more sense. In all likelihood, the veteran of 1289 NHL games (who has prior experience as a player rep and committee member) was informally signed on already. A trip to the Heritage Classic was possibly a little perk for Schneider and his family, and a chance for McKenzie to "introduce" Donald Fehr's new assistant to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff off record.

Schneider will work out of the player association's Toronto office, and is expected to have a variety of roles. He will communicate with the players on several issues, including concussions, equipment and rules of the game. He will also help players prepare for upcoming CBA negoatiations, as the current agreement expires at the end of the 2011-12 season. Schneider will be a liaison with player agents as well.

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