By Trevor Crawley, Cranbrook Daily Townsman — The season may be over for Sam and Max Reinhart, but Griffin, the third sibling, is still in the hunt for a WHL championship as the Edmonton Oil Kings have made it to the Eastern Conference final against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
And while the two Kootenay Ice siblings have retired the blue, black and gold jerseys for the season, they’re still lacing up their skates with other teams.
Max, who turned 20 in February, has been recalled to the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL as the team gears up for the playoffs and Sam has donned the national colours and is currently competing in the U-18 World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Siblings playing in the WHL are nothing new-current NHLers Luke and Brayden Schenn both played for the Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings and faced off against each other in February 2008.
Chet and Calvin Pickard-two goaltenders hailing from Winnipeg-met against each other in 2008 when Chet’s Americans beat Calvin’s Thunderbirds.
The Sutter family-Brent owns the Red Deer Rebels-has had many sons and nephews play in the WHL over the years.
But the story of the three Reinhart brothers has been particularly special, as Sam-a 16-year-old player-made the team this past season to play with his older brother, Max. Six regular season contests against the Edmonton Oil Kings and Griffin and a first-round playoff matchup made for some fierce rivalries.
“It’s a very interesting dynamic between the three of the them,” said their father, Paul Reinhart, in an interview earlier in the season.
“Although all three are extremely competitive, I would also say that all three of them are extremely encouraging and supportive of each other, and are actually each others cheerleaders so I think that in a perfect world, they’d like to have a 6-3 game and they all score three goals.”
While it was fun to see three siblings play against each other, it has been a real treat to watch Sam and Max play together, as the young rookie occasionally skated with his older brother when Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch juggled bodies around while searching for a potent first line.
The effectiveness of those two playing together can be seen in the numbers Sam put up when they were first paired together on the Ice’s swing through the B.C. Division in November, as Kootenay went on a nine-game road trip.
Sam recorded 19 points-five goals and 14 assists over that span-while Max tallied 14 over the same time period, with seven goals and seven assists.
Griffin was no slouch by himself on the Oil Kings; the 17-year-old scored 12 goals and collected 24 assists over the regular season this year, and is one of the lynch pins to the Edmonton defensive corps.
While the three have developed their talent over many years of practice, it doesn’t hurt that their father, Paul, spent 11 seasons playing pro hockey with the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks before he retired due to chronic injury problems.
However, all of his three sons seem well on their way to following in his footsteps.
Max was a third round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry draft by the Calgary Flames and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club a year later.
Griffin is draft-eligible this year and comes highly touted; he is listed in the 10th spot in the final report compiled by NHL Central Scouting for the 2012 draft and will likely go within the first few rounds.
Sam Reinhart is coming off the best rookie season in Kootenay Ice franchise history, tallying 28 goals and 34 assists and his stock will only rise as he develops and matures over the next few years.
With an ex-NHL defenseman as a father, it seems like a given that the three would eventually lace up the skates, but Paul said they all made the decision to get into hockey on their own.
“We certainly didn’t push them into the game of hockey; they played hockey, they played soccer, they played lacrosse, they did a number of things,” said Paul, as he described how the three boys got into Canada’s game without any influence from him or his wife, Theresa.
“It was never our intention to push them towards hockey, but just by nature, they all gravitated towards it, they arrived at that themselves?.All three are exceptional athletes and [are] good in multiple sports but, obviously, they’re all Canadian kids and they grow up generally pursuing the game of hockey so they arrived at it on their own, without direction from us.”
Max, being the eldest, led the charge, as he seemed to take an interest in sports right from being a toddler, according to Paul, while Griffin and Sam followed their eldest brother.
All three were very much into sports growing up, whether it was basketball, soccer, tennis or lacrosse, but hockey was their first love, which again, was led by Max.
“Once one gets into hockey, the others tend to follow and it was very clear from early stages that they had talent,” said Paul. “They certainly had the ability in the game, they loved it and they all spent a great deal of time playing both organized hockey and shinny hockey.”
Paul joined the Hollyburn Country Club in the Reinhart family’s hometown of West Vancouver, which has two sheets of ice that would see endless hours of use from his three sons and their friends on weekends.
Both Max and Sam chose to play the game as forwards, while Griffin, like his father, decided to become a part of the defensive corps.
“Personally I think all three of them would have made excellent defencemen,” laughed Paul.
The three went through the minor system there and all played on the Vancouver North West Giants of the B.C. Major Midget League when they became eligible.
Sam and Griffin both captured provincial titles with the Giants, while Max’s team lost out in the semifinals during his tenure with the team.
Eventually, the WHL came calling for all three; the Ice drafted Max in the fourth round in 2007, while Griffin got picked up in the first round in 2009 and Sam followed up as a 15th overall selection in 2010.
Just like when they were younger, Max-being the eldest-led first.
Kootenay Ice head scout Garnet Kazuik said Max was a tougher read because he played Midget hockey as an underage Bantam player.
“You had to judge him on what his ability was at that level of hockey which made it a little bit more interesting and a little bit more difficult in that bantam draft year for him,” said Kazuik. “At the end of the day, Max, he broke the ground for those other two, he’s basically the guy who did all the work for the other two guys to follow, from that point moving forward.”
The two younger siblings elected to stay and play within their age groups, instead of jumping up like Max had done, according to Kazuik, but it wasn’t too long for them to get noticed after Max established the Reinhart name in major-junior hockey with the Ice.
Based on his record over the last four years, it seems hard to believe that the eldest sibling went in the fourth round of the WHL Bantam Draft, but Max was also grappling with choosing between the WHL and NCAA hockey, said Jeff Chynoweth, the president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice.
“Looking back at it, there’s no way a player of Max Reinhart’s abilities would’ve slipped to the fourth round without people having some questions marks,” said Chynoweth. “If you could do the draft over again, he’d be a first-rounder just like his two other brothers.”
The eldest sibling put up 27 points with the club in his rookie season in 2008/09 and was able to develop at a faster pace as he saw a lot of ice time due to a large turnover of players from the previous season and a coaching philosophy from former head coach Mark Holick to promote the best players-regardless the age.
“Max played a lot of hockey in a lot of situations and I think Mark Holick gave him the opportunity to play a lot more than most 16-year-olds do,” said Chynoweth.
“Max’s ability took over and he had a great year.”
Knoblauch, who was an assistant under Holick during Max’s rookie year, has watched the eldest Reinhart mature and develop over the last four years.
“Right from the start, you knew he was an intelligent hockey player who saw the ice very well, but the big thing with Max when he was at that age-and most 16-year-olds-was that he wasn’t that strong,” said Knoblauch. “He was a guy who was very successful when he has the puck on his stick and when he was young, he tended to have the puck knocked off his stick easily.
“With him getting older and stronger, he got more confident with the puck and it was less likely he would get bumped off the puck and that’s when his game was taken to another level, and that happened sometime last year .”
The Edmonton Oil Kings selected Griffin third overall in the first round of the 2009 WHL draft; the Ice had the 13th pick and couldn’t get their hands on him.
However, Chynoweth snapped up the youngest Reinhart 15th overall in the first round a year later.
“Going back to the Bantam draft, we knew about Sam, we knew about Griffin; we knew we weren’t going to get Griffin-we weren’t going to get Griffin just from where we were selecting the year prior,” said Chynoweth. “From our end, we kind of knew we had about three or four players that we were drafting in 2010 and Sam was at the top of that list but you didn’t know if he would go that far down.
“?He was definitely at the top of the list and when he became available, it was a no-brainer. We wrote his name down real quickly.”
While Sam was identified and evaluated based on his individual skill, it would be fair to say he had the benefit of watching and learning from the experiences of his two older siblings.
“Max worked extremely, extremely hard and Max has developed all of his skill through his hard work and Sam, on the other hand, he’s the guy who works smarter, he’s the guy who has a ton of skill at a younger age,” Kazuik said.
“?Sam has had the benefit of learning from his older brothers, and practicing with skating with his older brothers, to work with older kids to develop his skill, where Max didn’t have that. So Max was the guy out there doing all the work to develop his skill, where Sam got to come in and play with his older brothers and learn a lot from them.”
Whatever he learned from his older brothers paid off, as Sam came into Cranbrook and had a stellar year, finding a spot on the second line and co-led the team in goal production with his older brother.
He was named to Team Pacific in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, which took place over the 2011 Christmas break, and captured the WHL Eastern Conference’s nomination for Rookie of the Year.
“Sam’s understanding of the game as a player at his age right now is unbelievable,” said Chynoweth. “I don’t think there’s a player in the league who does the little things that most people don’t watch or understand as well as this player does.”
Sam has four years of WHL eligibility left and has the luxury to develop for an extra year until he becomes available for the 2014 NHL draft.
But his WHL season is over, along with his eldest brother, as Griffin and his Oil Kings swept the Ice in the first round of the playoffs, which begs an interesting question: Which son do the parents cheer for?
“It is possible to cheer for all of them,” Paul said. “We certainly don’t have any favourites.”