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Reinhart name lives on

by Laurence Heinen / Calgary Flames
Paul Reinhart suited up for 517 games with the Flames franchise spanning from 1979 to 1988.

During his 11-year National Hockey League career, Paul Reinhart had many memorable moments.

Having long since retired from the game he loves due to chronic back problems, Reinhart is now living vicariously through his three sons Max, Griffin and Sam.

Paul went to far as to say that seeing Max don a Calgary Flames jersey in pre-season action against the Edmonton Oilers last fall ranks up there as one of his best hockey memories.

“One of my highlights of my hockey career would have been watching Max play his first pro game in exhibition against Edmonton – that was pretty thrilling,” said Paul, who also recently watched Max suit up for the Abbotsford Heat in the American Hockey League playoffs.

Both Max, 20, and Sam, 16, played this past season for the Kootenay Ice, while Griffin, 18, helped the Edmonton Oil Kings capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup as Western Hockey League champions.

“They’ve all been incredibly athletic from the time that they were kids and they just gravitated towards hockey,” said Paul during a telephone interview from his West Vancouver home. “They’re just good Canadian kids and of course they looked at hockey and certainly that’s what they wanted to do. They all showed great aptitude for it at early ages.”

The proud father recalled back to when Max was a toddler and a televised baseball game caught his eldest son’s young eye.

“He was taking the stance in front of the TV and throwing the ball like a pitcher,” Paul said. “At first I didn’t know what he was doing until I made the connection. He was very, very athletic and of course when you have one boy athletic, the other two follow along.”

Sam, who won the Jim Piggot Memorial Trophy as the 2012 WHL rookie of the year, said that his dad has always been quick to praise each of the boys, while at the same time offering constructive criticism along the way.

“He definitely talks to us about what to improve on and what we need to be better on the next night for sure,” Sam said.

The Reinharts didn’t attend the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles when the Flames used their third round pick (64th overall) to select Max.

“Certainly from a personal standpoint, I was thrilled ... that he was being drafted by them,” said Paul, who was chosen by the Atlanta Flames in the first round (12th overall) of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.

While neither Paul nor Max were present when their names were called during their draft years, that won’t be the case for Griffin, who’s projected to be a first-round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22.

“The whole family’s going to go,” said Paul, while noting that Sam isn’t eligible to be selected until 2014.

Growing up in Kitchener, Ont., Paul also showed a great aptitude for hockey at an early age and went on to play four seasons for the Kitchener Rangers before being drafted by Atlanta.

“Back then I was on the ice in Calgary with the Canadian Olympic Team,” recalled Reinhart, who went to Europe with the Canadian squad in the fall before attending Atlanta’s training camp and earning a spot on the roster as a 19-year-old defenceman. “It was exciting. At that time, I thought I would be playing a year for the Olympic team.”

After his first year with Atlanta, the Flames relocated to Calgary, which pleased Reinhart’s agent Alan Eagleson.

“Once the decision was made, some of the guys were a little upset about it, but I remember Eagleson specifically getting on the phone and saying, ‘Listen, it’s the best thing that ever happened to you. Get up there and get to Calgary’,” Reinhart said. “And it was great advice.”

In 74 games that first season in Calgary, Reinhart scored 18 goals and added 49 assists to help the Flames compile a 39-27-14 record.

“The Atlanta franchise, they had never won a playoff series,” Reinhart said. “Our first year in Calgary, we ended up beating Chicago and then Philadelphia in a seven-game series and then ended up losing to Minnesota in the semifinals.”

Five seasons later, the Flames made a remarkable run to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose a heart-breaking series in five games to the Montreal Canadiens.

“It was a heck of a run,” Reinhart said. “If there’s one of those instances that you’d like to have back in your life, it would be that series. You’d like to figure out a way to do something differently.”

After nine seasons with the Flames, eight of them in Calgary, Reinhart was traded prior to the 1988-89 season along with forward Steve Bozek to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round draft choice.

The Flames went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1989, but not before Reinhart’s Canucks put up a valiant fight in the first round before losing in overtime of Game 7.

“It’s probably the best hockey I’d ever played in my life,” Reinhart said. “We probably should have won the series when all is said and done and probably provided them the test and matured them to the point where they could go on and do what they did. There’s no question that they were the best team in the league at that time, but we played extremely well and I think was the start of turning around the Vancouver Canucks organization in terms of expectations.”

Even though he matched his 57-point output from the previous year, Reinhart decided to retire following the 1989-90 season due to his back problems.

“It was tough to be consistent,” Reinhart said. “I think that if that same injury occurred today, we would treat it completely different and I probably wouldn’t have missed half of what I did, just with of the knowledge of how to deal with it.”

Fortunately for Reinhart, his back problems didn’t deter him from coaching all of his sons throughout their minor hockey careers at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, where he settled with his wife Theresa after retiring from the NHL.

“I kind of got back into it when the boys came along and started playing because I felt it helped me coach them,” he said. “It helped me understand a little bit more about the game and what’s going on.”

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