Erik Reitz had just stowed away his garment bag and was settling into his seat to watch a DVD about fishing, one of his favorite pastimes, on the Minnesota Wild’s charter plane when the club’s media relations director approached and asked Reitz to follow him to the front of the plane.
Not having a clue as to what was taking place, Reitz followed, and was led to where Minnesota’s general manager Doug Risebrough was waiting to speak with him.
|Not afraid to exchange words with rivals like Ed Jovanovski of Phoenix, Erik Reitz said he is a player who can be counted on to "stand up for my temmates." |
“That’s when he told me I had been traded to the New York Rangers,” Reitz explained after taking part in his first practice with his new team on Friday morning at the MSG Training Facility.
Reitz quickly grabbed his belongings and departed the plane before it jetted off to Edmonton, where the Wild will face the Oilers tonight. No time for goodbyes. Instead, he was heading off to a new team and a new city.
“It’s bittersweet because I was sad to leave a team with all my friends where I had been for eight years, but it’s great to get a new start and a new opportunity here,” said the 26 year-old Reitz, who was originally Minnesota’s sixth-round selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
The Rangers acquired the rugged 6-foot-1, 215-pound defenseman in exchange for winger Dan Fritsche on Thursday afternoon. Reitz had appeared in 31 matches with the Wild this season, registering one goal, one assist, and two points to go along with 41 penalty minutes and a respectable minus-two plus/minus rating. He also ranked second on the club with 58 hits.
Over parts of three seasons at the NHL level, Reitz has appeared in 37 career contests.
A self-professed stay-at-home defenseman, Reitz will add a strapping figure in front of the Rangers’ net when he is in the lineup.
“I will bring a physical presence here on defense, finish my checks, stand up for my teammates, and make a good first pass out of our zone to keep the puck out of harm’s way,” Reitz, the Detroit native, said of his style of play.
Having Reitz on the roster will afford head coach Tom Renney his first real opportunity to carry seven defensemen this season. The Rangers have had a remarkable run of good fortune and good health with their current crop of rearguards, as only Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden
have missed any action this year, and both of those players only missed a single game each.
But Reitz’s addition provides more depth at the defense position at a critical juncture in the season, with the Rangers fighting for playoff positioning over the final 32 games.
“I think it’s a good deal because it gives us depth at the back end to go along with (Corey Potter and Bobby Sanguinetti) at Hartford who can help us, too,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “I kind of like the way we’ve postured ourself right now.”
Not every face was completely unknown to Reitz when he arrived Friday morning. Reitz played one season in juniors with defenseman Dan Girardi
and he had also been a teammate of winger Aaron Voros at Minnesota’s affiliate in Houston.
“Plus I know Chris Drury,” laughed Reitz. “I used to surf with him in L.A. when I used to go out there and train!”
The newest Ranger said that his teammates were quick to say hello to him and introduce themselves to him prior to practice on Friday. And he expected that his transition to becoming a Ranger will evolve quickly, beginning with Friday’s trip to Boston for a big contest against the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
“Hockey is kind of a small world, so you kind of know guys, but it’s the same wherever you go: just tape your sticks, go out, and work hard,” concluded Reitz.