Reinharts a real ice family

WHEN injuries forced Paul Reinhart to retire from the NHL at the age of 29 after a highly successful but all-too-short career with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, he put his sticks and skates away and didn't touch them for many years.

"I think lots of guys are like that when they retire," Reinhart told the North Shore News last week from his West Vancouver home as he prepared for a trip to Edmonton. "They either get right back into the game in the form of management, coaching, scouting or whatever, or they tend to leave it for a while.

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"You spend your life at it and then all of a sudden it's time to move on."

Reinhart, already dabbling in the business world as a player, pursued a career in investing once his playing days were over.

Tomorrow night he'll sit down for a fancy meal in Edmonton but it won't be big-shot businessmen joining him at the table. It'll be his wife Theresa and their sons Max, who just turned 20 Feb. 4; Griffin, who turned 18 on Jan. 24 ; and 16-year-old Sam. And the talk at the table most certainly won't be about business. It'll be about birthdays. And hockey.

The next night the three boys - assuming Max is recovered from a minor injury - will all suit up in one Western Hockey League game, defenceman Griffin for the Edmonton Oil Kings and forwards Max and Sam for the Kootenay Ice.

Paul may have once stepped away from the game but these days he's practically smothered by it. And he's loving it.

"We're thrilled to see them pursuing something that they obviously want to do - to see them not just pursuing it but to be excelling in it is very gratifying," he said.

With Max and Griffin WHL veterans and Sam nearing the end of his first full season, this won't be the first time that they've all met in one game. The biggest problem at the games, said Paul, is that he doesn't have enough eyes.

"We tend to watch our own boys more than the game, per se. And of course when you've got three of them - it's hard enough with two - but now when you add three and one on the other team it becomes very tough to follow how each of them is playing."

What hockey observers have seen all year long is that these Reinhart kids are all pretty good - good enough that they might all follow their dad into the NHL one day.

Paul was already two years retired by the time Max arrived but with Griffin and Sam not far behind the Reinhart household was a rambunctious place and, naturally, hockey became a big part of it.

"It was very much a testosterone driven household, that's for sure," said Paul with a laugh, adding that despite the competitive nature of his three boys they were always very respectful of each other.

"They absolutely have each others' backs and there's a great deal of loyalty to each other," he said. "All three of them, as sports crazy as they were and as competitive as they were, we were extremely fortunate that all three of them got along and have always gotten along extremely well. There have never been any issues between any of them."

Contacted by phone in Cranbrook, Max confirms most of his father's assessment.

"Any household that has three boys growing up in it near the same age there's going to be, let's call them arguments, I guess," he said with a laugh. "But we were always pretty close. I've never not cheered for my brothers, I love watching them play. I always hope that they have good games no matter what, just whenever I'm playing in that same game I hope that my game is a little bit better."

As the boys grew they pulled Paul back onto the ice with them.

"We kind of forced him onto the whole coaching part of the game," said Max. Since then Paul has gotten back into the game himself, suiting up for rec games at Hollyburn Country Club and even the odd alumni game with former pros.

The boys have slowly learned what their dad was like as an NHLer.

"The first time that I really saw one of his full games was when I was quite a bit older and I was watching one of those ESPN Classic things," said Max. "That's probably the first memory I have of watching him when they were playing against Edmonton. I'd heard all the stories about the old Battle of Alberta and all that stuff but it's really neat to watch it."

What struck him while watching the classic contest was that his father still plays the game the same way now, employing the same smart moves and pinpoint passing. Though they'll never see him play a live NHL game, the boys have all learned a great deal from their dad, said Max.

"He's already accomplished what we're trying to do right now. It's nice to have someone who's been through what you're going through and understands kind of every situation that you're going to be put into. The whole way he's been able to guide us and I think it's been quite a big advantage for us."

In his final season with the Canucks Paul and Theresa moved to West Vancouver and have remained there since. When the boys were old enough they all signed up for hockey in the Hollyburn association. Hollyburn hockey co-ordinator Jack Cummings had a huge influence on each one of them, said Paul.

"Jack Cummings did a wonderful job for them," he said. "It's a great testament to him and what he's done up there that the boys have been able to come through their whole careers at Hollyburn. They played all of their minor hockey there and it's a great feather in Jack's cap. They've learned not just hockey skills from Jack but they've learned just a lot of off-ice skills from him as well - how to be good kids as well as good hockey players."

That training has all three of the boys standing on the brink of professional hockey careers. All three have suited up for regional and national teams in international youth tournaments. Max was drafted in the third round by the Calgary Flames in 2010 and has signed a contract with them. Griffin was ranked eighth amongst 2012 draft eligible North American skaters when central scouting released their midterm rankings last month. And Sam is fourth in WHL rookie scoring with 47 points, including 20 goals, in 45 games.

Though Griffin is a towering defenceman and Max and Sam are forwards, they all look very much alike on the ice, said Paul.

"They're similar in their hockey sense, first and foremost. They've all got great hockey sense, they're similar in that they understand and play the game the way it needs to be played."

Paul laughed when he heard his family being compared to another famous hockey family, saying they've got a long, long way to go before they catch up to the Sutters.

"I think there were about 22 of those guys," he said. "That family obviously has a storied history in the game of hockey.

"I think the Staals would probably be a more accurate description of how things are unfolding. But of course there's a long way to go yet to get there. . . . A lot of things would have to go right, there's a lot of really good players out there. Obviously you never want to take it as a given but they're certainly on the right path and it looks promising."

The Reinhart boys all have dreamed about playing in the NHL for a long time but there's still a lot of work to be done for all three, said Max.

"It's a long way to go for everyone, it's not exactly an easy league to get into but I think we're on the right track right now," he said. "We've just got to keep working at it."

Paul said he has loved watching them all work to get to this point in their careers but the one drawback of having his three kids starring in the junior hockey system is that he and Theresa have an empty nest much sooner than they'd anticipated.

"It's certainly quieter around the house without them around," he said. "We count the days until Christmas is here and then we count the days until summertime arrives because it's great to have them all home."

They'd rather have the kids at home but they're happy to see them chasing their dreams.

"In a perfect world we would be a lot closer to them," said Paul. "That's just the nature of junior hockey being what it is. If you had your choice as a parent you'd want them all to be home until they're 18, 19, but that's not the way the game is set up. And so you hope that when they move on they find good billet families, they continue to develop off ice as much as on ice. We've been very fortunate in that regard but it's certainly a sacrifice as parents."

Max said he and his brothers appreciate all that their parents did to get them this far.

"I think any hockey parent has to really enjoy the game," he said. "All the arenas that you go to - it's not like it's a short drive and it's not like it's cheap to play. It's tough for parents. You don't realize it when you're young but when you get older you realize how much of a sacrifice they have made for you."

aprest@nsnews.com

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