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Kristian Reichel witnessed his father, Robert, make some crafty moves in the Czech Republic, but didn’t really get the opportunity to see him at his very best in the NHL.
So, he turned to YouTube to get the goods on his dad.
And being a typical smart-alecky kid, Kristian got more of a kick out of seeing the old man’s bloopers than the former Calgary Flames sniper’s highlight reel.
“Oh yeah, I found lots of funny videos with him — one fight where he didn’t want to fight and one goal he scored into his own net,” the 20-year-old forward, signed by the Manitoba Moose during the summer, said Sunday at the Iceplex.
Hours later, Kristan played his second pre-season game when he donned No. 86 for the Winnipeg Jets in their clash with the Edmonton Oilers at Bell MTS Place.
He was only three when Robert gave North American hockey one more try and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2001 for what would be the final three seasons of a terrific 11-year NHL career. Robert scored 43 goals in his time in Toronto.
But it was a decade earlier when he was ripping it up in Calgary, recording back-to-back 40-goal campaigns (1992-94) on a talented squad featuring the likes of forwards Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, defencemen Al MacInnis and Gary Suter and goalie Mike Vernon.
In truth, Kristian only realized when he was about eight or nine the legend status of his father in the Czech Republic, not only for his exploits competing internationally, but also for his star power in the NHL. The elder Reichel finished with 252 goals and 630 points in 830 games split between Calgary, the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Leafs.
“Maybe when I started school is when I realized he was a great hockey player. Before that, I didn’t even know that much. I was there in Toronto and skating with him, but I didn’t know,” said Kristian, who suited up with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League this past season.
Ignored at the past two NHL drafts, he was invited to the Winnipeg’s prospects camp in 2017 and played in the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C. He was signed this summer to an AHL deal and is in camp on a tryout.
Understandably, once he leaves the rink, he gets on the horn to discuss each day’s events with his mentor.
“Yeah, we are calling every day. He tries to give me advice for things I do on the ice. That’s great for me, that I have a father like that who can help me,” Kristian said.
At 6-1 and still on the slight side at about 170 pounds, Kristian had no trouble handling traffic in the WHL, his first taste of hockey on this side of the pond after two years of elite men’s hockey with HC Litvinov of the Czech Extraliga. A slick skater with good positioning and a hard shot, he scored 34 times in 63 games.
He’s had success on big stages before. In January, at the world junior championship in Buffalo, he scored in regulation time against Finland and then lit the lamp in the shootout to help his national team advance to meet Canada in the semifinal round. The Czech Republic would eventually lose the bronze medal to the U.S.
Pro camp, he said, is another matter.
“It’s like a childhood dream, so it’s a great opportunity for me and a great experience, for sure. I will try to play the best I can with the Moose and try to improve myself and get better, and what will happen will happen.”
For he and another youngster, Skyler McKenzie — who scored a pair of goals in his first-ever NHL pre-season game Sunday — earning an opportunity to slip on a Jets jersey in front of 15,000 fans also comes down to good timing, explained Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice.
“The new guys that have come to camp and are trying to make that transition to full-time pro hockey player,” Maurice said.
“I normally haven’t given those players, those first-year players, an exhibition game (because) it’s all about getting the pros ready. Our schedule’s unusual this year, the six games in eight days — there are some guys getting opportunities and it’s good for them. I like the way they’ve worked. I’ve been Scrooge-like, in terms of how I hand out exhibition games at times, so this year’s training camp kind of sets itself up for everyone getting a look.”
Assistant sports editor
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