About the only more traveled member of the Rob Klinkhammer household is the family cat.
“It’s probably one of the most well-traveled cats in North America,” Klinkhammer said. “She’s been on tour for just about every American Hockey League or any NHL hotel that I’ve been in. She just got to Pittsburgh about four days ago now and now I’m going to have to fly her to Edmonton, which will be fun for her.”
Klinkhammer’s wife rescued “Mini Kitty” (also named by his wife) in the first year of his professional career and the feline companion has had to make sacrifices along with the well-traveled hockey player.
The 28-year-old Lethbridge, AB native has played for four different WHL teams, four AHL teams and will suit up for his fifth NHL team when he joins the Edmonton Oilers. Friday was the second time within a month that Klinkhammer has been traded. On December 5, 2014, Pittsburgh acquired him from Arizona. On Friday, Klinkhammer joined the Oilers after they sent David Perron to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for him and a first-round pick.
“It’s been an absolutely crazy day,” Klinkhammer said by phone, shortly after the trade was announced. “I was traded about a month ago so I’m still living in a hotel in Pittsburgh and I wasn’t really expecting it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. You never know but in this life things happen when you least expect it so here I am now.”
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Klinkhammer has played 139 NHL games for Chicago, Ottawa, Arizona and Pittsburgh, recording 39 points (20-19-39) and 35 penalty minutes. He has also played six seasons in the AHL, scoring 212 points (82-130-212) and 246 penalty minutes in 396 games.
The Oilers newest forward is nicknamed The Colonel, based on the American television sitcom from the 60’s and early 70’s, Hogan’s Heroes. Werner Klemperer played the character of Colonel Wilhelm Klink.
“I’ve never seen the television show,” Klinkhammer said. “Everyone back in Lethbridge calls my dad the Colonel because the show was before my time. Some of my friends call me that and some play-by-play and the older broadcasters like to go with the Colonel. I don’t mind it. Whatever people want to call me is fine by me.”
With a nickname like the Colonel, you have to bring some physical attributes to the ice. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound forward doesn’t boast high-end skill, but can contribute physicality, grit and a simple hardworking game. That’s something he wishes to bring to his new team in Edmonton.
“They’re having kind of a tough year and nobody ever likes that, it’s not fun when you’re struggling. I’ve just got to come in and play my game, which is a big, strong, physical game. It’s really simple and hopefully I can help the boys out there to get things turned around,” Klinkhammer said.
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His last couple of years in the AHL saw his best point production to date. In 2011-12, Klinkhammer posted 35 points (12-23-35) in 35 games with the Binghamton Senators. With Portland in 2012-13, he scored 44 points (14-30-44) in 53 games. He earned some time that season in the NHL as well, scoring 11 points (5-6-11) in 22 games.
2013-14 was his longest season in the NHL, playing 72 games for the Coyotes. He scored 20 points, including 11 goals.
This season, Klinkhammer has split time between the Coyotes and Penguins. With Arizona, he scored three goals in 19 games. Following the first of his two trades this season, he played 10 games with Pittsburgh and recorded a goal and two assists.
The forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Coming home to Alberta gives him an opportunity for not only a fresh start but a place to showcase what he can bring to the table for an NHL franchise.
“I just want to come in and play my game the best I can, be consistent and be hard to play against every night,” Klinkhammer said of his goals for the remainder of the season. “I kind of pride myself on doing the little things. I’m not a big flashy player or high-skill guy but I just want to try and get my job done to the best of my ability and help my team as much as I can. They’re a good team. It’s just that when things aren’t going right, they aren’t going right. I want to just grow as much as I can personally and develop my game as much as I can while helping the Oilers win a couple of games and get things turned around.”
Klinkhammer has played for several teams in several cities, but his career now takes him back to his home province for the first time since he was much younger and with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.