Harold John Snepsts - Born October 24, 1954 in Edmonton, Alberta is a retired Canadian professional ice Hockey defenseman.
Snepsts grew up playing Hockey in Edmonton, and would eventually play for the local Maple Leafs Athletic Club. He was a big player that could not skate well, and it seemed like he was running on his skates instead of gliding. Snepsts loved Hockey, and would hit the rink at any chance - he never missed a practice.
While Snepsts may have been a weak skater, he played with his heart on his sleeve, and a rough and tumble game, and that is why he managed to make many of the better teams while he was growing up.
Snepsts would play his junior Hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings, starting in the 1972-73 season, and was drafted in the third round by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1974 NHL draft.
Snepsts made a strong impression during his first training camp, and appeared in 27 games for the Canucks in 1975, recording his first NHL goal. Snepsts started this season for the Central Hockey League's Seattle Totems, before being recalled permanently to the Canucks.
Snepsts became a regular for the Canucks during the 1975-76 season, appearing in 78 games and recording three 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 big smile.
Snepsts would start to grow his moustache in 1977, which would be his signature look throughout the rest of his NHL career.
Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, Snepsts was the Canucks most effective defender. His physical, error-free brand of Hockey saw him selected to the NHL All-Star Game in 1977 and 1982. The 1977 All-Star game was held in Vancouver. The crowd went wild when they introduced the local folk hero.
Snepsts 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 in 1978–79, 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, were the heart-and-soul of the team defensively and Snepsts was a tower of strength during the playoff run. However, Snepsts would commit a terrible turnover in overtime of the first game, when he fired a loose puck straight up the middle, in a desperate attempt to clear the puck. Except the puck landed right on the stick of the great Mike Bossy. Bossy, perhaps the best pure goal scorer ever seen in the NHL, quickly put the puck behind Brodeur to clinch game one. The Canucks were swept in 4 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 five games for fighting Doug Risebrough under the stands at the Pacific Coliseum. 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 for Al MacAdam in 1984.
Snepsts 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.
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 seven 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 plagued with 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.
"I learned an awful lot in Detroit what a veteran should do to help turn a club around," he says. "We had about six old guys and it is unbelievable what you can do to help the young players. There is a lot of pressure on them to succeed right away and sometimes they didn't know where to turn. You just have to tell them their time will come. Talk to them in the dressing room and on the road and give them some confidence."
After 3 years in Detroit, he was released of his contract and seemed destined to retire. However he did desire to return to Vancouver, and publicly said he will only play with the Canucks. The Canucks were interested as well, as new general manager Pat Quinn had been critical of the lack of leadership and experience in Vancouver in the previous couple of years.
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, Snepsts was a steadying influence as the team set a club record for fewest goals against, was instrumental in teaching one of the brightest youngsters in Canucks history. He was the road trip roommate of 18 year old phenom Trevor Linden.
Snepsts, along with Rich Sutter, were unexpectedly traded at the the 1990 trading deadline to the St. Louis Blues. The Canucks were looking for a youth movement and sent the two veterans to St. Louis. Harold enjoyed his end of his season in St. Louis so much that he decided to return for one more year for the 1990-91 season.
Snepsts became the 70th player to appear in 1000 NHL games.
Snepsts appeared in 1033 NHL games over his career, recording 38 goals and 195 assists for 233 points, along with 2009 penalty minutes, the equivalent of 33.5 games in the penalty box.
Snepsts was a cult hero in the old Pacific Coliseum, where fans would boisterously chant "Harrrrrrrrrooooollldd! .... Harrrrrrrrrooooollldd!....Harrrrrrrrrooooollldd!" over and over. Even in the later years of his career when he would revisit Vancouver as a member of another club, the fans would cheer for their hero.
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 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 midway through his second season.
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.
On March 14, 2011, the Canucks organization inducted Harold Snepsts into their "Ring of Honour".