Hershey Bears left wing Joe Snively grew up watching and loving the Washington Capitals. Playing for the local Little Capitals in his youth, the Herndon, Virginia native had his hopes set on professional hockey. Snively attended Yale University where he was the leading scorer in points during his four years there. After a successful collegiate career, Snively was quickly signed by the Washington Capitals as a free agent in March 2019. In this interview, NoVa Caps’ Zac Herr talks with Snively about signing with the Capitals and his transition to the professional game.
For Snively, getting signed by the Capitals was an exciting moment. Despite not playing at the NHL level currently, he knows the dream of making it to the NHL is alive and well. There is a lot of work for him to do before he makes it to Washington, but he’s prepared to put in the effort needed to get. Despite being signed by his hometown team, he looks at it the same way as he would if it had been any other team that had signed him:
“Yeah it was for sure an exciting moment. I know I have a lot of work to do before I get to that moment. As a free agent I thought it was a good spot for me, a good organization. It was exciting to sign for the hometown team, but I’m treating it as it were any other team.”
For some college athletes, going professional may not be an option once their athletic and educational career is complete. While he initially didn’t have thoughts of continuing his career at the professional level, Snively participated in a few NHL development camps during his free agency period and was looking to keep playing the game he grew up loving. Despite having no specific team in mind, Snively continued working towards a professional contract. When asked about his thought process on continuing as a professional hockey player, he had this to say:
“Not really. You go through college, I didn’t really. I participated in some NHL development camps with the [Buffalo] Sabres and the [New York] Rangers, but I didn’t really have a team in mind. It just kind of happened after the season and they were one of the teams. I thought it would be a good situation.”
Looking at professional hockey today, most demographics prove that the sport is dominated by players with Canadian nationality. Many American players have missed out on some of the same luxuries that young kids playing hockey in Canada have. When asked about his hockey lifestyle growing up, Snively explained it was really no different. His hometown may not have been as hockey-crazy or driven as Canada or other places, but the love of the game drove Snively to success, as he iterated:
“I mean hockey, there’s obviously not as many youth programs as bigger cities like Chicago and Detroit. But there’s still a big hockey community there. Growing up, hockey was what I did, it was the sport I participated in the most”
When looking at Snively’s game, his size (5’9″, 170 lbs) makes him one of the smaller players on the ice for the Bears. Compared to collegiate hockey, the professional game may seem more physical and aggressive. While it may appear that a player of Snively’s stature would have difficulty adjusting to this, for the 23-year old, it was no problem:
“Guys are bigger but, there are players that are built like men in college too. 23,24,25 years old. The physicality isn’t one of the biggest transitions, I’d say there is other parts of the game that are tougher to adjust to”
For some players, points aren’t the be-all, end-all of their style play, as some are stronger on defense or on the penalty kill. This season, Snively hasn’t had as much production as he did in the few games he played last year. With only two points (a goal and assist) in 14 games played, the young left wing has hit a bit of a rough patch. For Snively, the lack of production has been tough. Seeing himself as a point-getter and a producer for the teams he has played on, this particular dry spell has proved troublesome. However, he expressed a want to right the ship and get back on the scoresheet:
“Yeah, I think one of my, what I like the bring to the team is producing and being a plus player. And this year I ran into some road blocks and it’s been challenging, and I haven’t been producing as much as I want to and it’s frustrating but I just kind of have to focus on other parts of your game. Playing defensively correctly and just keep working and eventually, hopefully, the goals and points will come.”
Snively will look to pick up his production as the season continues to roll on. Last season, in nine games played with the Bears, he scored twice and recorded seven points. In order for his NHL dream to remain on course, that type of production must return.
By Zach Herr