Here’s a trivia question to ask your fellow sports geek friends. What do St. Louis Blues legend Brett Hull and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz have in common? The answer: They’re both in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Charles Schulz’s upbringing in the State of Hockey
Schulz was born in Minnesota and spent the early part of his life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Naturally, being a native Minnesotan, he was exposed to the game of hockey at an early age. His father took him to St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers games, which first made him enthralled to the sport. His interest grew to the point where his father created a rink in the family’s backyard.
His love for hockey would spread to his later profession. In several Peanuts strips, you can find Snoopy in his alter-ego as a “world-famous hockey player.”
Schulz spreads the game to California
In 1958, Schulz moved to Santa Rosa, California — just an hour away from San Francisco. Unfortunately, this meant he would be far away from his childhood pursuit of ice hockey. There was only one ice rink nearby, and it closed not long after he moved there.
Even after the cross-country move, his love for hockey never wavered. At the urging of his first wife, Joyce, Charles financed the construction of a new ice rink near his studio. The Inland Empire Arena opened in 1969 and is still in operation today.
Six years later, Schulz organized the first Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament. The event has continued nearly every year since 1975, only missing the years 2001 and 2019 due to renovations at the arena and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schulz himself played in the tournament as a member of the Diamond Ices team every year until his death in 2000.
The hockey world recognizes Schulz’s lasting contribution
In 1981, USA Hockey recognized Schulz’s contributions to the sport by awarding him the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service. As of 2021, he is still the only person with no direction to any professional hockey team or league to win the award.
In 1993, USA Hockey once again recognized him by inducting him to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Schulz died on Feb. 12, 2000 of colon cancer. In a rather poignant coincidence, this was the day before his final new Peanuts comic made it into newspapers.
The senior hockey tournament that Schulz created has grown to become the largest of its kind in the entire world. Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament has attracted all manner of participants, from former NHL players to celebrities. The most recent edition, held in 2018, had over 1,100 registered players.