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Harold John Snepsts (born October 24, 1954, in Edmontonmarker, Albertamarker) is a retired professional ice hockey player who spent 17 seasons in the National Hockey League. He is one of the most popular players in the history of the Vancouver Canucks, the club where he spent the majority of his career, and currently serves on the team's scouting staff.

Playing career

A big, bruising stay-at-home defender, Snepsts played his junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings and was selected 59th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. He made a strong impression during his first training camp, and appeared in 27 games for the Canucks in 1974–75, recording his first NHL goal.

In 1975–76, he became a regular for the Canucks, appearing in 78 games and recording 3 goals and 18 points. He would quickly become a fan favourite for his hard-working, effective, blue-collar defensive game as well as his likeable personality and large moustache.

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, Snepsts was Vancouver's most effective defender. His physical, error-free brand of hockey saw him selected to the NHL All-Star Game in 1977 and 1982, and he was named the club's top defender four times in five years between 1977 and 1982. He also showed improvement offensively, scoring a career-high 31 points in1978–79, and on February 2, 1980 became the first defender in club history to score on a penalty shot.

Throughout this period, however, the Canucks were one of the weaker franchises in the NHL. However, they caught fire late in the 1981–82 season and went on an extended playoff run, reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Snepsts, along with goalie Richard Brodeur, was the heart-and-soul of the team defensively and was a tower of strength during the playoff run. However, he would commit a terrible turnover in overtime of the first game of the finals against the New York Islanders which led to the winning goal by Mike Bossy, and the club was swept in four games.

The 1982–83 season would be a disaster for Snepsts, as he missed 30 games due to a number of injuries, and was also suspended for 5 games for fighting Doug Risebrough under the stands at the Pacific Coliseummarker. He would have a better year in 1983–84, but at the end of the season was a victim of General Manager Harry Neale's youth movement on the blueline and, in a highly unpopular move, was dealt to the Minnesota North Stars. He left Vancouver as the club's all-time leader in games played and penalty minutes, although Stan Smyl would break those records a few years later.

Devastated by the trade, Snepsts never really found his game in Minnesota and lasted only a season with the North Stars. It was the worst offensive season of his career, as he failed to score a goal and recorded only 7 assists, although he did set a career high with 232 penalty minutes.

Let go by Minnesota, Snepsts signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. However, his time in Detroit would be blighted by injury. Knee problems limited him to just 35 games in 1985–86, and he failed to score a goal for the second consecutive year. In 1986–87, he was having his best campaign in years for a rejuvenated Detroit team until he injured his shoulder in February, and then re-injured it during the playoffs. The resulting off-season surgery forced him to miss the first half of the 1987–88 season, although he returned to help the Wings reach the Campbell Conference finals for the second consecutive year.

The 1988–89 season would be a homecoming for Snepsts, as he signed a free-agent contract with the Canucks and returned to Vancouver. Now a depth defender, he was a steadying influence as the team set a club record for fewest goals against. Late in the 1989–90 season, however, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues to add experience for the playoffs. He played out his final season with the Blues, during which he played in his 1000th NHL game, before retiring in 1991.

Snepsts appeared in 1033 NHL games over his career, recording 38 goals and 195 assists for 233 points, along with 2009 penalty minutes.

Coaching career

Following his retirement, Snepsts remained with the St. Louis organization and became head coach of their top minor-league affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen of the International Hockey League. Despite having no coaching experience, he led the team to a stellar 48–25–9 mark for a 105-point season before losing in the second round of the playoffs. For 1992–93, he was promoted to an assistant coaching position in St. Louis under head coach Bob Plager. However, he remained in that position for only a year before being replaced by new head coach Bob Berry.

Following his departure from the Blues, he spent a season as head coach of the San Diego Gulls of the IHL, leading them to a 93-point season. He signed on as head coach of the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL for the 1998–99, but inherited a rebuilding team and was fired mid-way through his second season in charge.

In 2000, Snepsts was hired as a scout for the NHL's Central Scouting Service (CSS). He spent five seasons in that role before returning to the Canucks organization as a scout in 2005.

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1972–73 Edmonton Oil Kings WCHL 68 2 24 26 155
1973–74 Edmonton Oil Kings WCHL 68 8 41 49 293
1974–75 Seattle Totems CHL 19 1 6 7 58
1974–75 Vancouver Canucks NHL 27 1 2 3 30
1975–76 Vancouver Canucks NHL 78 3 15 18 125 2 0 0 0 4
1976–77 Vancouver Canucks NHL 79 4 18 22 149
1977–78 Vancouver Canucks NHL 75 4 16 20 118
1978–79 Vancouver Canucks NHL 76 7 24 31 130 3 0 0 0 0
1979–80 Vancouver Canucks NHL 79 3 20 23 202 4 0 2 2 8
1980–81 Vancouver Canucks NHL 76 3 16 19 212 3 0 0 0 8
1981–82 Vancouver Canucks NHL 68 3 14 17 153 17 0 4 4 50
1982–83 Vancouver Canucks NHL 46 2 8 10 80 4 1 1 2 8
1983–84 Vancouver Canucks NHL 79 4 16 20 152 4 0 1 1 15
1984–85 Minnesota North Stars NHL 71 0 7 7 232 9 0 0 0 24
1985–86 Detroit Red Wings NHL 35 0 6 6 75
1986–87 Detroit Red Wings NHL 54 1 13 14 129 11 0 2 2 18
1987–88 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 3 0 2 2 14
1987–88 Detroit Red Wings NHL 31 1 4 5 67 10 0 0 0 40
1988–89 Vancouver Canucks NHL 59 0 8 8 69 7 0 1 1 6
1989–90 Vancouver Canucks NHL 39 1 3 4 26
1989–90 St. Louis Blues NHL 7 0 1 1 10 11 0 3 3 38
1990–91 St. Louis Blues NHL 54 1 4 5 50 8 0 0 0 12
NHL totals 1033 38 195 233 2009 93 1 14 15 231


References in popular culture

Snepsts was the subject of the Hamilton garage band The Dik Van Dykes' song "Harold Snepsts".

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