David "Sweeney" Schriner - Born November 30, 1911 in Saratov, Russian Empire – Died July 4, 1990 in Calgary, Alberta was a Russian-born Canadian ice Hockey left winger and coach.
Though his family emigrated to Canada when he was an infant, Schriner was the first Russian-born player in NHL history. He grew up in Calgary, where he played baseball in addition to Hockey, and returned to the city following his career.
His hero growing up was a semi-professional baseball player by the name of Bill Sweeney. Schriner emulated Sweeney's playing style and as a result earned the nickname "L'il Sweeney", later shortened to just "Sweeney". Schriner preferred his nickname so much that he refused to respond to anyone who addressed him by his given name of David.
Schriner learned the game of Hockey on Calgary's outdoor rinks and played his minor Hockey in the city. Schriner was a member of the Calgary Canadians junior team that appeared in the Memorial Cup play-downs in both 1930 and 1931, before he turned to senior Hockey with the Calgary Bronks, playing in the 1932 and 1933 Allan Cup tournament. He was a top scorer in the Alberta Senior Hockey League; his 19 goals and 22 points in 1931–32 and 22 goals and 26 points in 1932–33 were all league-leading totals.
The New York Americans invited Schriner to their training camp in 1933. They were impressed with his skating ability and signed him to a contract to play for their International Hockey League / IHL affiliate, the Syracuse Stars. He appeared in 44 games with the Stars in 1933–34 where he totaled 18 goals and 11 assists.
The New York Americans promoted him to their lineup to start the 1934–35 NHL season, and in doing so, made Schriner the 1st Russian-born player in NHL history. Playing in his 3rd NHL game, Schriner scored his 1st NHL goal on November 22, 1934 vs Wilf Cude of the Montreal Canadiens at The Forum. He assisted on the game winner with 12 seconds to play in the 3rd period, as New York won the game 4-3.
Schriner quickly emerged as an offensive star; he was third in scoring among players in the Canadian Division at the midway point of the season. The NHL named him rookie of the year after he finished the year with 18 goals and 40 points, winning the 1935 Calder Memorial Trophy.
Schriner continued to display his scoring ability in his second season. He scored four goals in a 5–5 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Americans' second game of the 1935–36 season, en route to a 45 point season (19 goals) that led the NHL in scoring. Additionally, the Canadian Press voted him to the First All-Star Team for the season. He again led the league in scoring in 1936–37, with 46 points, and was named to the Second All-Star Team.
Prior to the start of the 1937–38 NHL season, Schriner played for the NHL All-Stars at the Howie Morenz Memorial Game. The game was a fundraiser to support the family of Howie Morenz, a Montreal Canadiens star who died due to complications following a broken leg suffered the previous season. Schriner scored one goal in a 6–5 victory by the All-Stars over the Canadiens.
After five seasons in New York, the Americans dealt Schriner to the Toronto Maple Leafs in May 1939 in exchange for five players: Jimmy Fowler, Busher Jackson, Murray Armstrong, Doc Romnes and Buzz Boll. The five-for-one trade was unprecedented in the NHL at that time.
Schriner remained an effective scorer in Toronto, where he earned his second First All-Star Team selection of his career in 1940–41. One year later, he was instrumental in the Maple Leafs' comeback in the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals. He scored the tying goal in the 3rd period, and then scored the third goal for the Maple Leafs at the 16:13 mark to close out the scoring in Toronto's 3–1 victory in the seventh game against the Detroit Red Wings to win the 1942 Stanley Cup championship, a moment described as being one of his greatest thrills in Hockey. It was Toronto's first championship in ten years, and the Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to overcome a 3–0 series deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series with their victory over Detroit.
Frustrated by what he felt was too much individualism in the game, Schriner contemplated retiring from professional Hockey in favour of taking up a coaching position in Alberta's senior league. He had a change of heart and returned to the Maple Leafs for the 1942–43 NHL season. Schriner again announced his intention to leave the game in June 1943, this time citing past injuries to his knee and dissatisfaction with Maple Leafs' owner Conn Smythe's contract offer for the following season.
Leaving Toronto, Schriner returned to Calgary and joined an Army/Navy team in the Alberta Garrison League for the 1943–44 campaign, where he was named to the military league's second all-star team at left wing. Following the local season, Schriner signed with the Vancouver St. Regis of the Pacific Coast Hockey League for their playoff run. He scored nine points in three games before a protest by the team's opponent resulted in both his and Vancouver's suspension by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA). He was still considered a professional player, and thus ineligible to play senior Hockey. Schriner appealed the decision, citing his position as a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve. Rules of the time that automatically restored the amateur status of all active military personnel, however the CAHA ruled that a reserve officer was not the same as soldier on active duty. Schriner's participation in the series did not impact the outcome of the series as Vancouver was eliminated by the New Westminster Lodestars, who won all three games of the series.
Schriner returned to the NHL and the Maple Leafs for the 1944–45 season, helping the Maple Leafs win the 1945 Stanley Cup championship. Schriner had 3 goals, 1 assist in 13 playoff games, including the game winner (1-0) in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals vs Harry Lumley of the Detroit Red Wings.
Schriner played two more years in Toronto before announcing his retirement for the third time in 1946.
He returned to Alberta to coach the Lethbridge Maple Leafs of the Western Canada Senior Hockey League (WCSHL) for two seasons before once again returning to the ice as a player with the Regina Capitals. He finished fourth in WCSHL scoring in 1948–49 and was named to the league's second all-star team. Schriner and the Capitals won the WCSHL and Western Canadian championships, but fell to the Ottawa Senators in the 1949 Allan Cup final.
Following the season, Schriner ended his playing career for the fourth and final time. He coached a season of senior Hockey in Nova Scotia, after which he returned to Alberta where he briefly coached the Crow's Nest Pass Coalers in the Western Canada Junior Hockey League in 1951.
Schriner was a durable player for much of his career. He played every game for his teams in his first six professional seasons, failing to miss a contest until his first year with the Maple Leafs. He was regarded as one of the best puck handlers of his time, and his 201 career NHL goals ranked him as one of the game's top goal scorers of his era.
The Canada West Universities Athletic Association awards the David "Sweeney" Schriner Trophy to its top scorer each season.
Dave Sweeney Schriner was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962