1972 NHL Entry Draft Pick
Round Overall
1 5
Jim Schoenfeld
Selected by Buffalo from Niagara Falls (OHA)
Buffalo Sabres Niagara Falls Flyers
Jim Schoenfeld

6-foot-2, 200 pounds

Left-hand shot


Pre-Draft Statistics

Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1969-70 Lon.-Ham. OHA 48 3 16 19 135
1970-71 Ham.-N.F. OHA 55 6 28 34 205
1971-72 Niag. Falls OHA 40 6 46 52 215

Pre-Draft Notes

OHA All-Star Second Team for 1971-72. ... Led OHA with 215 PIM in 1971-72.
Canadian • Born September 4, 1952 in Galt, Ontario • Hometown: Cambridge, Ontario

Career Vitals

First contract: 1972
Debut: October 8, 1972
(Buffalo vs. Atlanta)
Final NHL game: April 16, 1985
(Buffalo at Quebec) (playoffs)
Retired: April 16, 1985
Stanley Cup: Never won
Numbers worn: 6, 13 (Buffalo); 2 (Detroit);
13 (Boston)

Career NHL Statistics

Teams: Buffalo, Detroit, Boston
Years: 1972-1985. Playoffs: 1973-1985

Regular Season
13 years 719 51 204 255 1,132
Stanley Cup Playoffs
9 years 75 3 13 16 151
Complete statistics available at NHL.com

Major-Junior Draft Year

Selected by London in the third round, No. 24 overall, of the 1969 OHA Junior A Midget Draft after spending 1968-69 season with Owen Sound Greys (OHA Jr. B).

Career Highlights

Recorded his first NHL point in his seventh NHL game with the primary assist on a goal by Gilbert Perreault just 10 seconds into the middle period of Buffalo's 7-2 home win over Atlanta on Oct. 22, 1972. The goal put the Sabres up 2-0. ... Scored his first NHL goal in his 19th NHL game on Nov. 19, 1972, at Vancouver. The goal, at 0:32 of the third period, cut Vancouver's lead to 6-3 in a 9-5 Canucks victory. The goal came against Vancouver goaltender Dunc Wilson. ... Set Buffalo record (since broken) for penalty minutes in one season by a rookie with 178 in 1972-73. ... Finished fourth in 1972-73 Calder Cup voting for NHL's Rookie of Year and was highest-ranked defenseman in voting.. ... Named Buffalo alternate captain prior to the start of the 1974-75 season. ... Named Buffalo captain shortly after turning 22 -- at the time becoming the youngest team captain in NHL history (record since broken). He was given the "C" two weeks after former captain Gerry Meehan was traded to Vancouver. ... Set Buffalo team record (since broken) when he recorded 184 penalty minutes in 1974-75. His defense partner, Jerry Korab, also had 184 penalty minutes in that season. ... Was captain of Buffalo team that went to 1975 Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Philadelphia. ... Finished third (behind Larry Robinson and Borje Salming) in voting for Norris Trophy as NHL's top defenseman in 1979-80. ... Recorded his lone NHL hat trick with three goals in Buffalo's 5-2 win at Winnipeg on March 13, 1981. All three goals were scored against netminder Michel Dion. ... Began 1984-85 season at Rochester by coaching the Americans to 11 straight wins, which remains the AHL record for most consecutive victories from the start of a season. ... Inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Big Trade to Detroit

In the fall of 1977, just five years after he joined the Buffalo Sabres and less than three years after he was named team captain, Schoenfeld told reporters he expected the team was getting ready to trade him. After Sabres general manager Punch Imlach hired Marcel Pronovost as the team's new head coach ovr the summer, Imlach phoned Schoenfeld and iinsisted he step down so that Pronovost could name his own captain. Unwilling to give up the "C" voluntarily, Schoenfeld said he interpreted the forced move as a sign that he would be traded. However, despite the obvious tension between Schoenfeld and the organization, it would be another four years before he was traded away from Bufalo. Imlach and Pronovost were both fired in December 1978, and Scotty Bowman took control of the team after winning the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1979. The switch to Bowman coincided with a Schoenfeld resurgence. Although Schoenfeld and Bowman did not have a good personal relationship, Schoenfeld had outstanding years under Bowman in both 1979-80 and 1980-81, including a postseason All-Star Second Team berth in 1980. That run ended on Dec. 2, 1981, when a 29-year-old Schoenfeld was packaged in a blockbuster trade between the Sabres and Detroit. The Sabres sent heart-and-soul players Schoenfeld and Danny Gare, along with Derek Smith, to Detroit for younger stars Mike Foligno, Dale McCourt, and Brent Peterson. In a related deal on the same day, Buffalo traded goaltender Bob Sauve to Detroit for future considerations (i.e. an agreement to pay Sauve's salary until he became free agent at end of year). The move shook up both teams in a big way, and it did not sit well with the former Sabres players, who were outspoken in their criticism of Bowman. Gare was particularly upset that Bowman, as both coach and general manager, had so much power over his players. Gare called Bowman and "tyrant" who did not communicate with veteran leaders and made no effort to keep them in the loop about team-related matters. Schoenfeld backed up that criticism, saying: "I have nothing good to say about the man, and that's not because I was traded." He also criticized Bowman's youth movement, since he felt championship teams needed experience leaders. Schoenfeld left Buffalo as the Sabres' all-time leader in career penalty minutes (997, record since broken). The Sabres veterans were exiled from a team that was leading its division to one that was among the weakest in the league. "It's tough to leave this team," Schoenfeld told reporters. "This team is the best spirited I've been on here in 10 years. The team was really coming together in the last two weeks. ... As great as it is here, and as great as the guys on the team are, it's almost a relief not to have to deal with Bowman anymore." Ironically, Schoenfeld would end up playing for Bowman again during the 1984-85 season when he put his own coaching career on hold in December 1984 to help the injury-depleted Sabres. He then replaced Bowman as Buffalo head coach when Bowman gave him the job the following June, making him the youngest head head coach in Sabres history and the league's youngest head coach at the time at age 32. But Bowman, who remained the Sabres' GM, later fired Schoenfeld in January 1986 and returned as head coach with the team's record at 19-19-5. Schoenfeld became the third coach hired and fired by Bowman in Buffalo.

A Brief First Retirement

At age 32, Schoenfeld retired for the first time in July 1984 due to chronic neck and shoulder problems. He wasn't out of hockey for long. Two months later, on Sept. 17, 1984, he accepted a position as head coach of Buffalo's AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He got off to a great start as an AHL head coach, but the organization needed him to get back on the ice as a player early in the 1984-85 season because the Sabres were decimated by injuries. Lindy Ruff, Phil Housley, and Mike Ramsey were all out of the lineup at the time Sabres general manager Scotty Bowman asked Schoenfeld to resume playing. Bowman said Schoenfeld had wanted to play one more year for the Sabres, but had not been offered a free agent contract during the summer, which is why he took the coaching position. Schoenfeld came out of retirement to rejoin the Sabres in early December 1984, and he was back in the lineup for the team's Dec. 19, 1984, game at Chicago. He finished the season with the Sabres before retiring for good after the team was eliminated from the 1984 playoffs.

The Koharski Incident

Schoenfeld gained notoriety as New Jersey's head coach during the 1988 Wales Conference Finals series between the Devils and Boston. Schoenfeld, then just 35 years old, had taken over the Devils midway through the season and led the team on an improbable run to the Devils' first playoff berth, first playoff series victory, and first trip to the conference finals. All the positive attention he had receivd for his coaching success suddenly turned negative when he confronted referee Don Koharski after Game 3 of the Bruins-Devils series on May 6, 1988, at New Jersey. Angered by several of Koharski's penalty calls in a game the Devils lost 6-1 to fall behind 2-1 in the series, Schoenfeld waited for Koharski in runway outside the dressing rooms. He argued chest-to-chest with Koharski, and at one point, Koharski began to slip. Believing he had been pushed, Koharski told Schoenfeld he would never coach again, and Schoenfeld responded: "You're full of shit. You fell, you fat pig. Have another doughnut. Have another doughnut." The incident was caught on camera by the local ABC affiliate and was replayed on ESPN and other major broadcast outlets. The NHL suspended Schoenfeld for at least one game over the incident, but the Devils got a restraining order that allowed Schoenfeld to continue coaching. When Schoenfeld came out to coach in Game 4, the officiating crew refused to work, and replacement officials were used for that game. To resolve the controversy, the NHL suspended Schoenfeld for Game 5 on May 10, 1988. Boston routed the Devils 7-1 to take a 3-2 lead, but Schoenfeld returned for Game 6, where New Jersey tied up the series with a 6-3 win at home. Boston went on to win Game 7. The Devils were eliminated, but the Schoenfeld-Koharski incident never seemed to die and remains an unfortunate part of Schoenfeld's impressive NHL legacy. Schoenfeld later said he regretted making the comments and made peace with Koharski. The true irony of the recorded incident is that it gives a false impression of Schoenfeld, who is one of the classiest and most respected people in hockey. What the video does show is Schoenfeld's competitive fire and desire to stand up for his players -- qualities that had also defined him during his own playing career.

NHL Awards and Honors

(with Buffalo)
1976-77:All-Star Game
1978-79:Challenge Cup NHL All-Stars
(injured, did not play)
1979-80:All-Star Second Team, All-Star Game

Team Awards and Honors

Oct. 29, 1974, to Sept. 1, 1977
(with Buffalo)
1972-73:Penalty-Minutes Leader (178)
1974-75:Penalty-Minutes Leader (184, tie), Playoffs Penalty-Minutes Leader (38)
1975-76:Playoffs Penalty-Minutes Leader (33)
1976-77:Charley Barton Memorial Silver Stick Award (dedication to game)
1979-80:Seventh Player Award (most inspirational), Plus-Minus Leader (plus-60)

Team Records

Buffalo Sabres Records
Most goals in one game by
a defenseman:
3 (shares record)
(3/13/81 at Winnipeg)
Most shots on goal in one game: 12 (shares record)
(12/10/78 vs. Toronto)
Most shots on goal in
one game by a defenseman:
(12/10/78 vs. Toronto)
Highest plus-minus rating in
one season by a defenseman:
plus-60 in 1979-80

Transaction History

Dec. 10, 1969 -- Traded by London (OHA) with Rick Kehoe and Ken Southwick to Hamilton (OHA) in exchange for Gary Geldart, Gord Brooks, and Mike Craig. Dec. 30, 1971 -- Traded by Hamilton (OHA) to Niagara Falls (OHA) in exchange for Russ Friesen and Mike Healey. Dec. 2, 1981 -- Traded by Buffalo with Danny Gare and Derek Smith to Detroit in exchange for Mike Foligno, Dale McCourt, and Brent Peterson. Aug. 19, 1983 -- Signed with Boston as an unrestricted free agent. Dec. 6, 1984 -- Came out of retirement to sign with Buffalo as an unrestricted free agent after beginning season as head coach of the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester.

Life Outside the NHL

Full Name: James Grant Schoenfeld
Nickname: "Schony"

Other Post-Draft Teams: Cincinnati (AHL)

Broadcasting Career: Worked as lead studio analyst for ESPN's National Hockey Night from start of 1992-93 season until he was named Washington head coach in 1994. ... Returned to ESPN on Oct. 5, 2000, as color commentator for NHL broadcasts and remained in that position until June 12, 2002.

Career Beyond Hockey: Worked as a spokesman for a mattress company in Buffalo in the mid-to-late 1980s between his jobs as head coach in Buffalo and New Jersey. He continued his association with the company, appearing in its TV commercials, until 1995.

Family: Older brother of former minor-leaguer Doug Schoenfeld.

Significant Injuries

Missed four games of 1972-73 season with concussion, suffered in an automobile accident in the first few days of January 1973. He did not return until Buffalo's Jan. 11, 1973, game vs .N.Y. Rangers. ... Missed part of 1972-73 season with damaged nerve in left leg, an injury suffered when he was hit by a shot just below the left knee during Buffalo's Feb. 25, 1973, game vs. Pittsburgh. The nerve damage caused Schoenfeld to lose much of the feeling in his left foot and eventually required off-season surgery. He did not return from the injury until Buffalo's March 18, 1973, game vs. Toronto. ... Missed part of 1973-74 season with ruptured spinal disc, an injury aggravated for the final time during Buffalo's Oct. 21, 1973, game vs. Toronto. The injury required surgery on Nov. 10, 1973, and he did not return until joining Cincinnati (AHL) on a rehab assignment in February 1974 -- marking his only time playing in the minor leagues. He did not play in the NHL again until Buffalo's Feb. 20, 1974, game at Toronto. After that game, Schoenfeld's Sabres teammate Tim Horton was killed in an automobile accident as the Hall of Fame defenseman drove himself back to Buffalo. ... Missed part of 1974-75 season with broken left foot, an injury suffered when Hall of Famer Stan Mikita stepped on the foot during Buffalo's Nov. 6, 1974, game vs. Chicago. Schoenfeld continued to plya through pain, but the initial injury worsened over the next week, and was re-aggravated to the point of a fracture during Buffalo's Nov. 13, 1974, game at Montreal. He did not return until Buffalo's Dec. 8, 1974, game vs. Minnesota. ... Missed part of 1975-76 season with mononucleosis, an illness diagnosed after Buffalo's Dec. 28, 1975, game at Chicago. Because of the illness, he was unable to play in Buffalo's Jan. 4, 1976, win over the touring Soviet Wings team from Moscow. He did not return until Buffalo's Feb. 22, 1976, game vs. Montreal. ... Missed remainder of 1976 playoffs with broken left ankle, broken elbow, and sprained wrist, suffered in Game 5 of Buffalo's Stanley Cup quarterfinals series vs. N.Y. Islanders on April 20, 1976, at Buffalo. The ankle required off-season surgery. The break had resulted from the re-aggravation of an injury to the same ankle that was suffered in Buffalo's regular-season finale on April 4, 1976, vs. Toronto. ... Missed part of 1976-77 season with viral pneumonia, an illness diagnosed in the days following Buffalo's Oct. 20, 1976, game vs. Vancouver. He did not return until Buffalo's Nov. 30, 1976, game at Boston. ... Missed part of 1977-78 season with broken metatarsal bone in right foot, an injury suffered when he was hit by a Barry Beck slap shot during the second period of Buffalo's Dec. 13, 1977, game at Colorado. He did not return until Buffalo's Jan. 8, 1978, game vs. Boston. ... Missed part of 1977-78 season with re-aggravation of right foot injury, suffered when he was hit by a shot during Buffalo's Jan. 22, 1978, game vs. Vancouver. He did not return until Buffalo's Feb. 16, 1978, game vs. Los Angeles. ... Missed part of 1978-79 season with separated right shoulder, suffered when he was checked while following through on a slap shot and fell onto the ice shoulder-first during Buffalo's Oct. 15, 1978, game vs. Detroit. He did not return until Buffalo's Dec. 7, 1978, game vs. Los Angeles. ... Missed part of 1978-79 season with strained ligaments in right knee, suffered when he dove to cut off a pass during the first period of Buffalo's Feb. 3, 1979, game at Minnesota. He did not return until Buffalo's March 6, 1979, game at N.Y. Islanders. ... Missed part of 1979-80 season with shoulder injury, suffered during Buffalo's Nov. 4, 1979, game at Buffalo. He re-aggravated the injury in the following game on Nov. 8, 1979, vs. Chicago and did not return until Buffalo's Nov. 15, 1979, game vs. Atlanta. ... Missed part of 1980-81 season with viral infection, diagnosed after Buffalo's Dec. 14, 1980, game vs. Vancouver. He did not return until Buffalo's Jan. 11, 1981, game vs. Los Angeles. ... Missed part of 1981 training camp with broken little finger on right hand. ... Missed part of 1981-82 season with broken metatarsal bone in righ foot, an injury suffered when he was hit by a shot during the first period of Buffalo's Oct. 18, 1981, game vs. Montreal. He played the rest of the game with the injury, which was not discovered until X-rays revealed it the following day. He did not return until Buffalo's Nov. 15, 1981, game vs. Boston and scored his first goal of the season in that game. ... Missed remainder of 1981-82 season with strained ligaments in left knee, suffered during Detroit's March 11, 1982, game vs. N.Y. Rangers. ... Missed part of 1982-83 season with separated ribs, an injury suffered when he crashed into a goalpost during Detroit's Oct. 14, 1982, game at Calgary. He did not return until Detroit's Nov. 24, 1982, game vs. Montreal. ... Missed part of 1983-84 season with separated shoulder and fracture in shoulder, an injury suffered during Boston's Nov. 9, 1983, game vs. Buffalo. The injury required surgery, and he did not return until Boston's Jan. 7, 1984, game vs. N.Y. Rangers. ... Missed remainder of 1983-84 season and entire 1984 playoffs with re-aggravation of shoulder injury, suffered during Boston's Feb. 27, 1984, game at Buffalo. Chronic pain related to the injury led to his first retirement. ... Missed part of 1984-85 season with inflamed tendon in foot, an injury suffered during Buffalo's Jan. 16, 1985, game at N.Y. Rangers. He did not return until Buffalo's Feb. 22, 1985, game vs. St. Louis.

Non-Playing Career

Served as Detroit assistant coach in March and April of 1982 while sidelined with knee injury. ... Named Rochester (AHL) head coach on Sept. 17, 1984, and held position until Dec. 6, 1984, when he resumed his playing career. ... Named Buffalo head coach on June 11, 1985 and held position until Jan. 17, 1986, when Scotty Bowman took job back from him. ... Named New Jersey head coach on Jan. 26, 1988, and held position until Nov. 6, 1989. ... Named Washington head coach on Jan. 27, 1994, and held position until June 3, 1997... Named Phoenix head coach on June 9, 1997, and remained in that position until May 24, 1999. ... Named N.Y. Rangers assistant coach on June 12, 2002, and remained in that position until July 21, 2003. ... Named Hartford (AHL) head coach on July 13, 2005 (in addition to his role as GM) and
 held position until July 23, 2007. ... Named N.Y. Rangers assistant coach (in addition to management duties) on Feb. 23, 2009, and held position until June 21, 2013. During this time, he served as N.Y. Rangers head coach for Game 6 of the team's playoff series vs. Washington on April 26, 2009. He took over as head coach when John Tortorella was suspended one game after an altercation with a Capitals fan.

Named Hartford (AHL) general manager on July 21, 2003, and continues to hold this position. ... Named N.Y. Rangers assistant general manager, player personnel, on July 23, 2007, and remained in position until July 1, 2015. ... Named N.Y. Rangers Senior Vice-President/Assistant General Manager on July 1, 2015, and continues to hold this position.


Selected by New York Raiders in 1972 WHA Draft -- the first-ever WHA Draft -- in February 1972. Spent the early part of 1969-70 season playing for the Owen Sound Greys (OHA Jr. B). Paired on defense with Hall of Famer Tim Horton as a  rookie for Buffalo in 1972-73. Paired on defense with Jerry Korab for Buffalo in 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons.
Was used as a left wing on the Buffalo power play during the 1978-79 season. Paired on defense with John Van Boxmeer for Buffalo during the 1980-81 season. Sang and played guitar on an album he recorded during his first season in the NHL. Starred in racquetball and was national B Division champion for Buffalo area in 1979.
Total Selected: 152
Forwards: 88
Defense: 47
Goaltenders: 17
Major Junior: 121
College Players: 25
Canadian: 139
Euro-Canadian: 2
American: 11
Born in USA: 10
Reached NHL: 67
Won Stanley Cup: 11
Hall of Fame: 2
All-Star Game: 13
Year-end All-Star: 3
Olympians: 1
Picks Traded: 24


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