The day was grey, the weather miserable and Griffin Reinhart could not have been happier Monday sailing to Victoria on a B.C. ferry.
“Kind of reminds me of home,” said the 17-year-old Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman and son of former NHL stalwart Paul Reinhart. “I like the rain. I’ll take it any day over the snow. It’s nice to be back.”
Griffin and the Oil Kings were on their way to a date Tuesday with the Victoria Royals (8-2 win) and were at Pacific Coliseum on Wednesday night to face the Vancouver Giants (4-1 loss).
Griffin is one of three Reinhart boys playing in the Western Hockey League — older brother Max and younger brother Sam are both on the Kootenay Ice — but he’s the big deal this year thanks to the 2012 NHL entry draft.
At 6-foot-four and 205 pounds, he is being touted as a first-round pick. He might even match or better his 5-11 dad, who went 12th overall in 1979 to the Atlanta Flames.
Paul moved with the Flames’ franchise to Calgary the following year and then spent his last two NHL seasons as a Vancouver Canuck.
Back woes cut Paul’s career short and he settled down in West Vancouver, where Max (1992), Griffin (1994) and Sam (1995) were born and raised. You can imagine, with three boys less than four years apart, what their younger days were like.
“We had a rec room above the garage that basically housed everything from WWE wrestling through to contact basketball,” Paul recalled Monday with a chuckle.
“The boys played constantly up there and, I mean, they did it all. They were competitive but they weren’t mean to each other.”
Mini-sticks, a rec room staple for energetic young hockey players, was among their pursuits.
“Yeah, we played it a bit and it would get pretty competitive and turn into full contact pretty quick,” Griffin confirmed. “We did get carried away sometimes but it was a lot of fun having two brothers. We all got along pretty well.”
Max and Sam became forwards while Griffin turned into a defenceman like his dad. All three boys were born after Paul retired so they never saw him play live.
Then Griffin watched Paul on TV in one of those classic games — Flames versus Oilers during the 1987-88 playoffs — and he was stunned.
“I had never seen him play until then and, just seeing a glimpse of him, it’s pretty amazing how much we play alike,” Griffin said.
Paul was a smooth skater, superb passer and wonderful on the power play. He was also stunned watching the same classic game.
In fact, he texted all three of his sons to alert them to the fact that dad was going to be on TV.
“I was amazed at the similarities of Griffin’s game to the way I played,” said Paul, now 51 and working in the investment business. “I wasn’t just looking at the positives but even the negatives. I was joking with Griffin that the things I comment to him that he needs to work on, I needed to do, too. He is way more similar to my game than I would have guessed.”
One thing Griffin won’t do is match Paul’s stats in his draft year. Back then, players were selected when they were 19 and going on 20.
Now it’s 17 going on 18. In Paul’s final year of junior, his amassed 51 goals and 129 points for the Kitchener Rangers. Griffin has seven points in 14 games for the Oil Kings this season.
“I don’t know how he did it, 129 points” said an impressed Griffin.
“I think he played a little bit of forward, too, but it’s pretty amazing to see his stats.”
Paul did play a little bit of forward in Kitchener. In fact, he played centre every second shift. Defence one time out, forward the next out.
“Obviously a different game at that time,” noted Paul. “I did that throughout the year.”
Griffin, a product of the Hollyburn minor hockey program, has no intention of becoming a hybrid like dad and, instead, is trying to hone his game for both the Oil Kings and the NHL scouts.
He says he sees the ice well and has good hockey sense but admits he is hardly a fancy player. He’ll be able to further showcase his ability next Wednesday in Regina when he suits up for Team WHL in a Subway Super Series game against the touring Russian side.
“I’m not like a dangler or anything,” Griffin said. “I’m not a guy who will dipsey-doodle through everybody on the rush but I think the skill set I do have will help me be a pro someday. The NHL draft is definitely in the back of my head, like it is for everyone in my age group.
“I’m trying not to think too far ahead and I think I’ve done a very good job of kind of living in the moment.”
Those moments promise to become much bigger for Griffin Reinhart.