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Firebirds' Jimmy Schuldt serious and steady on the ice, a sneaky prankster off it

On the ice, Coachella Valley Firebirds defenseman Jimmy Schuldt could be considered an assuming, under-the-radar player who makes a big impact on the team's success without a lot of fanfare or headlines.

But there's one area where Schuldt takes a backseat to no one, and that's in his role as one of the team's best pranksters. Road trips, practice sessions, home games, it doesn't matter. If there is a shenanigan or a caper happening, Schuldt is probably the mastermind.

"He's creative when it comes to that stuff, too, not just the usual things," said forward Andrew Poturalski who is often part of the hijinks with Schuldt. "He's my roommate on the road, one of my better friends on the team, and he's my partner in crime when it comes to pranks. He's an undercover, sneaky funny guy. At first glance, he seems like a quiet guy but he's definitely right in the mix of any of disturbances like that."

Schuldt said there's an artistry to a prank, in that it has to be something that wouldn't ruin anything, or hurt someone but just enough to make them annoyed. After sifting through several in his mind, that he wasn't at liberty to share, he said a good example would be the old sauce switcheroo.

"Like if we're having our team meal on the road and if there are two sauces that look the same, I'll switch them, and so someone will end up, I don't know, putting teriyaki sauce on their ice cream," he said. "We've definitely had some good ones, I probably shouldn't say. There was one in particular on April Fool's Day, but we got caught. Little things taping the toiletry bag shut, that kind of stuff.

Coachella Valley defenseman Jimmy Schuldt (44) skates a lap around after taking a shot on goal during warm ups before their game at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023.
Coachella Valley defenseman Jimmy Schuldt (44) skates a lap around after taking a shot on goal during warm ups before their game at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023.

"The unfortunate part is I’m starting to get it back, because people are realizing who's doing it, and now I'm even catching some strays like when it wasn't even me, I get blamed for it and retaliated against. Just this morning someone laced my skates the opposite way so I had to throw them out and replace them."

Head coach Dan Bylsma, when asked about Schuldt's prank prowess said, put it this way.

"I would just say that there are several pranks that are pulled, and if there's one where you're not sure where it's coming from, he'd be the first person I'd turn to," Bylsma said. "He's very unassuming in that way."

"Unassuming" is also a good way to describe Schuldt on the ice for the Firebirds. He's been on the team since Day One last year and has been an integral part of the team's success, but he's not the first name that jumps to mind for Firebirds fans.

That's because he is the master of the little things. The smart play. Being in the right position. Making the correct play at the correct time. A coach's dream out on the ice because you never have to worry about his decision-making.

Poturalski gave Schuldt the ultimate compliment, saying "he's just really tough to play against."

Coachella Valley Firebirds defenseman Jimmy Schuldt (44) leaves the ice after being named a player of the game against the Henderson Silver Knights at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.
Coachella Valley Firebirds defenseman Jimmy Schuldt (44) leaves the ice after being named a player of the game against the Henderson Silver Knights at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.

"He's hard-working, straight forward, does what it takes to win in games and in practice and he's competitive," Poturalski said. "He might not light up the score sheet but he does all the little things right. Blocks shots, big hits. He does a lot for this team that the everyday fan might not notice, but we love having him on our team."

The Firebirds are winding down the regular season which ends April 21, but they've already clinched the Pacific Division title and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it.

Schuldt has played in 63 games this year and has four goals and 17 assists with a plus/minus of +20. His scoring is a bit down from last year, but he's being asked to do more on the defensive part of being a defenseman as the team has plenty of goal-scorers to handle that part of the game.

Last season, Schuldt played in 71 of the team's 72 regular-season games, scoring eight goals with 24 assists and a plus/minus of +22. He played in all 26 Calder Cup playoff games, too, scoring five goals in helping the Firebirds along their deep postseason run.

"I have a defense-first mentality, for sure," Schuldt said. "I think last year I had a little more of an offensive role and points were coming easier. But in general, I think I'm a physical player, trying to get the puck up the ice, killing penalties, playing defense, getting the forwards going. Those kind of things are important to me. Might not show up in the scoresheet but that's not really what I'm focused on."

Bylsma said Schuldt has that quality that coaches love most: not needing to be coached.

"You don't have to worry about him out there," Bylsma said. "You know he's going to be paying attention to the details. He knows what's expected and how to deliver on those expectations. Solid all-around defenseman and that’s in skating, that’s in defending, that’s in puck play. And he’s potentially our most physical guy. You’ve seen that with some big hits at crucial points in the game that are turning points."

Jimmy Schuldt, 44, of the CV Firebirds checks a Barracuda player during their game against the San Jose at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., Feb. 28, 2024.
Jimmy Schuldt, 44, of the CV Firebirds checks a Barracuda player during their game against the San Jose at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., Feb. 28, 2024.

Bylsma added that Schuldt exemplifies the kind of culture that Bylsma tries to create with his teams.

"His story is kind of one that is important to the development of our team," Bylsma said. "Last year he came in and I had a conversation with him after game one and he was not playing. He quietly did the work, and very shortly became a main guy for us on defense. We have great leadership in this group, but rightfully, Jimmy should be considered a leader on this team because he's been a card-carrying member of how we want tp play and how we want to do things here."

So as the Firebirds are about to begin their second playoff run, keep an eye on No. 44 out there on the ice. Watch him do all the little things that lead to win. Also keep an eye on him off the ice so you don't put hot fudge on your chicken teriyaki.

"It’s something we’ve talked about that the more we're winning, the more stuff like that goes on, but if we’ve lost a couple of games not as many pranks are happening, you have to time these things right," Schuldt said. "And then come playoff time, it pretty much ends. Guys will just stop it altogether and we maybe just move on. ... Maybe."

Shad Powers covers the Coachella Valley Firebirds for The Desert Sun. Have a question about the team? Shoot him an e-mail at shad.powers@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Coachella Valley Firebirds' Jimmy Schuldt a serious prankster