When considering the most famous families to have graced the sport of hockey, there are several last names that naturally come to mind immediately.
The Richard brothers, of course, or the Mahovlich brothers, if you grew up watching the Montreal Canadiens in the early 1970s. Phil and Tony Esposito, who both stand out as an indelible part of the sport’s fabric in Chicago, are another distinguishable duo of brothers to have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame since their playing days.
Then there were the Hulls, and Mr. Hockey and his two sons Mark and Marty Howe.
For modern-day purposes, the Sedin twins are another iconic example of inseparable hockey brothers, having both played together on the same line for close to two decades with the Vancouver Canucks.
And we must not forget the trio of Staal brothers either, who are all in the midst of impressive NHL careers.
In terms of quantity however, the Sutter family collects praise for producing an astonishing nine NHL talents, spanning over two generations. They are without question the most prolific hockey family in the league’s history.
But what happens when one brother receives many more accolades and publicity than another?
For example, Malcolm Subban, who is the backup goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights [the Wolves NHL affiliate] shares the distinction with his younger sibling Jordan [of the AHL’s Ontario Reign], as the two lesser-known brothers of Nashville Predators star defenseman P.K. Subban.
Like Malcolm Subban, this is a label that Chicago Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhart can identify with, but would like to shake, as his younger brother Sam is in his third NHL season and has already established himself as a regular with the Buffalo Sabres. Their eldest brother, Max, plays for the AHL’s Belleville Bulls.
The three brothers are the sons of Paul Reinhart, who was a fixture on the Calgary Flames blue line during the 1980s, so there was always a strong precedent for Griffin and his brothers to use for added motivation while they were growing up. And Griffin was well on his way to complimenting the Reinhart family’s NHL legacy in 2012, when he was drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders.
As Wolves fans have gotten to know well, Reinhart is built like a freight train. Standing tall at 6-foot-4 and weighing 212 pounds, Reinhart exhibits a highly coveted combination of speed and size, which, for a defenseman whose job is to shut down the opponent’s top players on a nightly basis, is undoubtedly his greatest hallmark.
It’s this attribute that tempted the Islanders to make Reinhart there first-round selection nearly six years ago, and it’s why they hoped he could be a cornerstone on the back end for the franchise’s foreseeable future. Unfortunately for both parties, this did not come to fruition, as Reinhart only played nine games in an Islanders uniform, and is still working on making it as an NHL defenseman.
After getting just a brief sniff with the Edmonton Oilers the last couple of seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights claimed him in the expansion draft last year when the Oilers left him on their unprotected list. And initially, this appeared like Griffin’s best opportunity to make an NHL roster and play significant minutes for a young team. But Vegas has surprised the entire hockey world, and the Knights have resembled anything but an expansion team during their inaugural season.
The Golden Knights have remained remarkably healthy on defense, and Reinhart found himself exiled from the club’s group of top six rearguards in training camp. So it’s been another year in the American Hockey League for the 24-year-old this season, his first with the Chicago Wolves, and that’s where his focus is for now.
“Well I mean, obviously the goal is to play in the NHL, it’s not to play in the AHL. Vegas is pretty set up top right now though, so there’s not much I can do to get in that lineup. So for now it’s just about focusing on our playoff push down here, trying to clinch it, and than go from there. We’ve come a long way since the start of the year,” he said.
If Reinhart feels any pressure to get to the NHL and reaffirm what the Islanders felt about his game back in 2012, it would be understandable. And if the success of his brother Sam with the Buffalo Sabres or the legacy left by his father have created overwhelming expectations for the Wolves defenseman, I think many people could empathize with that. But Reinhart denies feeling any added pressure to match the hockey careers of anyone in his family.
“No, I don’t really care about that. I grew up with that, it’s all I know. My dad played, and he grew up with that. To be honest, it doesn’t even feel like we’re that big of a hockey family because when we’re together, we don’t really talk that much about hockey. We’re a close family, but I don’t feel any pressure from them,” explained Reinhart following a 2-1 loss to the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at Allstate Arena.
The Reinhart family and hockey go together like french fries go with ketchup, but according to Griffin, they surprisingly don’t spend all that much time talking about the sport together.
“I talk to my brothers all the time. Maybe once or twice a year, we’ll talk about hockey during the season. We try to stay away from that. I check on them every now and then, but we’re brothers first and we talk about hockey second,” he said. But back at the junior level, when Griffin would play against his brothers more frequently as a member of the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, he admitted that his parents disliked watching them on opposite sides.
“I think they’re fine with it now that we’re all on different teams. Back in junior though, we used to play against each other sometimes and I don’t know if they were too happy with that. But I know they’re proud of us,” Griffin said.
The former first-round draft choice has registered two goals and eight assists for the Wolves in 47 games this season, and sports a differential of plus-15, which is good for second best on the team. He’s arguably been Chicago’s most reliable defenseman all season, and he hopes his play can raise a few eyebrows among NHL executives.
Reinhart knows the clock is ticking on his NHL dream, but also recognizes that just focusing on the process and staying patient is paramount while he awaits his next opportunity as a call-up.