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West Vancouver's Sam Reinhart to play in Stanley Cup Finals

Father Paul Reinhart, a former NHL defenceman, says it’s harder to watch than play in the playoffs

He’d be the first in his family to do it.

Sam Reinhart of West Vancouver and the rest of his teammates on the Florida Panthers are as few as four games away from taking home the Stanley Cup.

On Saturday at 5 p.m. Pacific time, the Panthers will face the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Saturday morning, Reinhart’s mother Theresa will fly down to Vegas with her husband Paul and two other sons, Max and Griffin, all whom have played in the NHL.

Watching the Panthers beat everyone’s expectations this playoff season has been exciting for the family, Paul said.

“I think we all looked at their team and thought that if they made the playoffs this year, they would be better than they were last year because they were better suited for the playoffs,” he said. “Obviously, you've got to be a little bit surprised to see them knock those three teams off. They’re all exceptional, especially Boston.”

“But it’s obviously been incredibly exciting for all of us to watch Sam go through it,” he said.

Sam has been putting up numbers in the playoffs, with 11 points in 16 games, fourth in scoring for the Panthers. He also scored his first playoff overtime winner in Game 3 against Toronto. But his contributions go beyond goals and assists, said Paul, who played 11 NHL seasons with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.

“He’s always been a much better defensive player than people maybe gave him credit for,” Paul said. “But when you get on that stage of the NHL playoffs, it becomes more noticeable.”

“I think he’s getting more credit now for his all-around physical ability to play in tight spaces in tough quarters. And play both at both ends of the rink, including penalty killing, power play and driving a third line from a right wing position, which is hard to do,” he added.

During the playoff season, Sam has kept in constant contact with his family.

“One of the things that Sam has come to realize is that the playoffs are a great time of the year, but at the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game,” Paul said. “You’ve got to keep things in perspective and just keep going to the rink. And don’t get too high, and don’t get too low.”

The Reinhart family has watched most of the games from home, but travelled to Florida for Games 3 and 4 against the Maple Leafs, then up to Toronto for Game 5. They’re travelling to Vegas for the first two games, and will probably carry on from there, Paul said.

According to Paul – who played in the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals – it’s easier to be playing than watching from the sidelines.

“It’s way easier to be a player than a parent or brother … on the nerves and the angst, for sure,” he said.

It was 36 years ago that Paul suited up in the Stanley Cup Finals, with his Calgary Flames losing to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. While Sam’s two brothers both played in the NHL, neither saw much ice time in the playoffs.

Going into the finals, Paul said he has no specific advice for his son.

“He’s a pro. He knows what he needs to do.”

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