Interview and meeting with ReinprechtThe Eurolanche Fan Club met with former Colorado Avalanche player Steven Reinprecht in Germany.
The Eurolanche Fan Club celebrates its 10th anniversary during the 2016/17 season. On this occasion, the Fan Club organizes various events and has prepared many new improvements, as has been reported earlier. After the annual Eurolanche meeting, this year’s meeting being the eight edition, in Czech Republic in August, six Eurolanche members from Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA and Germany had the chance to talk with former Colorado Avalanche player and the last active 2001 Stanley Cup Champions Steven Reinprecht.
Eurolanche members spent nearly two hours with Steven in the city of Nurnberg, where he’s being playing since 2012/13 season. They conducted an official interview with him, which you can read in this article; had a long talk about hockey and non-hockey topics; received many autographs on the items they took with them and also took group and individual photos.
On the next day, Eurolanche briefly met with another former Avalanche player, Philippe Dupuis, who is Reinprecht’s teammate. In the evening, they went to the local game between rivals Nurnberg and Munich. Nurnberg was down 1-5, but managed to win 6-5 in overtime in front of 6032 fans (sell out). Reinprecht had an assist on the game-winning goal, while Dupuis registered two assists. After the game, Steve donated his autographed hockey stick to the Eurolanche collection.
The meeting with Steve was one of the greatest experiences in Eurolanche history. Steve was very kind and willing to answer all questions. He has become a friend of Eurolanche and there are already plans for another meeting in the future – in Nurnberg or in Denver, where he still owns a home and where he wants to live after a retirement.
Steven went undrafted during the NHL draft. He spent his junior years playing in the NCAA where he was captain of the University of Wisconsin during his last two seasons of his collegiate career. He signed a rookie contract with the Los Angeles Kings, but was traded to the Colorado Avalanche along with Rob Blake in exchange for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin and a first-round pick in 2001. During the championship season, he scored two goals and had five assists in 22 play-off games. He spent the next two years in Denver, playing in a total of 165 regular season games and amassing 103 points (39 goals, 64 assists). In summer 2003, he was traded to the Calgary Flames. After the lockout season (he played in the French league), Reinprecht’s continued his career with the Phoenix Coyotes, where he played for three and a half seasons. He finished his NHL career with the Florida Panthers, who decided to loan him to the German league (Mannheim) for a few games. Reinprecht spent his last season in North America, the 2011/12 season, in the AHL. Afterwards, he signed a contract with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers in Germany and has been part of the team since 2012/13 season. He has established himself as one of the leaders of the entire league. In 2014/15 season, he recorded 67 points in 52 games and led the entire league in points. During the past three seasons, he won the scoring once and ranked second two times. Additionally, he won gold medals with Team Canada at the World Championship in 2003. Two years ago, he was inducted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Hall of Fame.
Was it a big disappointment when you weren’t drafted by an NHL team?
I broke my ankle during my draft year. I was out for three months. And at that time, growing up in Canada, you’re kind of programmed to make the NHL, you’ve got to be drafted … so it disappointed me, but it was nothing major. I wasn’t too worried about it. It turned out to be the best break of my life I guess, because then I went to college. And if I didn’t go to college, a team would end up owning my rights and I’d have to go through their system. I would have to wait for the job. I had generated enough interest wherever I could. I had multiple teams. That was good not to get drafted. Looking back on it, breaking my ankle was the best thing that happened during my career.
What was the most successful moment of your career at Wisconsin?
The entire senior year. We had a really good team. We were ranked number one in the nation for maybe three or four months. We really had good team. Unfortunately, we didn’t do well at the tournament. Personally, I had good season. My line-mate was Dany Heatley and we had great chemistry. It was really a fun year.
Did your first trade from LA to Denver surprise you a lot?
Yeah, it was actually very surprising. The first time you get traded, you always kind of take it little personally. Afterwards, you realize that it’s just business. We were in Calgary on a road trip and I actually just came from dinner. I was right there in the elevator with our coach. We were talking. He didn’t know anything, either. Then, I was about to get to bed. It was about 10:30 pm, we play Calgary the following day. I received a call from our GM and he said “We traded you to Colorado with Rob Blake and you are leaving tomorrow morning”. It was kind of an introduction to professional hockey. It can happen anytime, at any moment. Of course, I wasn’t too upset about the fact that it was Colorado. They had a great team and they were building for that (Stanley Cup). I guess that it was a great transaction for me.
You were part of a crucial trade along with Rob Blake.
That year, Rob was one of top defensemen in the league, actually he’s been one of them for many years. He was definitely a big part of the final Stanley Cup puzzle. For me, being thrown into the deal worked out great for me, because Colorado does a really great job developing young players. It was great to watch guys like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque, all those guys preparing, how they work on and off the ice – it was great to learn from and it really gave me a lot, development-wise. It was great to be a part of this trade.
How do you remember your first games and days in Denver?
It was great. Everybody really welcomed me with open arms. Actually, they had guy on the team – Chris Dingman, who I grew up with, played baseball with. Him being on the team made the transition really easy. It was a great organization and I had a great time.
What players did you like to play with the most?
I liked them all. You look at the line up and there were so many great players. With Sakic, Forsberg, Hejduk, Tanguay, Drury. Take a pick. Lot of skill, lot of great guys to play with. It was always fun to play with Joe and Peter. Hejduk, Tanguay and Drury were all great. They were all in their prime right then.
How do you feel about winning the Cup in your first season in the NHL?
It went all really fast. It was very surreal. I went from playing 38 games a year in college for 4 year to 116, including exhibition games and the play-offs. You kind of get robotic after that. In the play-offs, when you’re making a run, you know you won’t get many moments like this. You need to take advantage of it. All the guys saying this are right. I mean, I had couple more chances in my career, but they were few and far between. To be able to do it right off the bat after school was something special. I was in a lucky situation.
What are your memories of Game 7?
I remember the fans being really loud. They were standing up and screaming the whole game. It was a great atmosphere. I remember that I had my best night of sleep the night before the game. I remember thinking “This is it. It’s all over after this.” I only remember the little things. I had goosebumps all game long, because energy was so high in the building.
Do you remember anything specific?
The whole game was kind of a blur. I remember all three goals – Tanguay with two, Joe with one. I remember going out there and trying to work hard.
What did you do after the game?
We were in the locker room for a while to really enjoy the moment. We had group dinner afterwards. That went on for a little while. It was a good time.
Did you do something like Shjon Podein who had worn his gear for 24 hours?
I am not that crazy. He was number 25 so he did it for 25 hours. He said he had rashes all over his body. That’s what you get if you stay in your gear for a day.
How was your day with the Stanley Cup?
I took it back to Edmonton. I had a big celebration, which started at my house. Everybody in the neighborhood and the entire area came around. We took lots of family pictures. We took the Cup to a restaurant and had a big party with family, friends and people who I’ve know who helped me in life and in hockey. It was a great time. 8 o’clock in the morning, it left and I was just like “Okay, you can take it.” Actually, I took it to the Gretzky statue and I took a picture with the statue, too.
How different were your two following seasons in Denver compared with the first?
I guess I was a little more comfortable, I wasn’t as nervous, because when I first got there, especially since it was during mid-season, it was Stanley Cup or nothing for the team. You really want to be a part of that, you don’t want to mess that up. After having been there for half a year and going back for next two, I felt more comfortable, going there for the summer and being there for pre-season camp. It was a lot fun and probably the best days of my career. It was a great organization and it was a lot of fun to be part of that. There were a lot of great players and people. It was memorable.
Was there pressure to win the Cup again?
Yeah, we had a good team. The next year, we lost in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. We had a chance to close it at home in Game 6, but we didn’t. We were a good team the next year, too, but we had a hiccup there in the first round against Minnesota. It goes to show you that you can have a good team, but it doesn’t mean you are going to win it. You have to get goals at the right time, to get saves as the right time and get a bit lucky, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get lucky in 2002 and 2003.
Did you deal better with your second trade to Calgary from Colorado?
Yeah, you get used it. I actually knew the trade was coming, because I talked to the PR guy on our team that morning. I just had a random question, I think it was the beginning of July, and he just said he’ll call me back, because we’ve just signed Kariya and Selanne. I said OK, no problem. I told my wife “I think I’ll get traded soon, because they signed these two guys.” There is only so much ice time available and I don’t think I will be a part of that going forward and that’s fine, because you want to go where you’ll get to play. I was kind of prepared for that one. But you know, I liked it in Colorado, I liked playing there. It was tough to leave. Its business and you know about that. It was just funny situation. I was flying to Phoenix with my wife that evening. The Assistant GM from Buffalo called me right after the trade, it was like a noon and he said they want me to fly out this evening for a medical. I said I can’t do it. I am going on vacation right now. It was the start of July and I asked if we can do it in a week. But he said that they really need to do it. Buffalo’s GM called me back afterwards and he said that I’ve just been traded to Calgary and that they needed me to come to Buffalo to make this three-way trade happen. I said OK, but can you get me to Phoenix as soon as possible. I had a flight to Buffalo that night and did the physical. I flew to Calgary next thing in the morning, did the physical and flew to Phoenix next evening.
How did you end up in France during the lockout season?
It’s a lockout. You just kind of wait on it to see if it starts or not and when you realize it’s not going to star, you want to keep playing. I actually had shoulder injury in March the previous year, so I didn’t want to sit around and just skate and practice. I wanted to play some games. France was a good league for that, because I didn’t really want to get too physical, because I didn’t want to hurt my shoulder. I just wanted to get back into it. I had a buddy on the French team, Steve Montador, who had emailed me that they were looking for another forward and if I was interested. I said yes, because my wife is fluent in French and she lived in Paris for some time. It was a great time.
What about being loaned to the German league by the Panthers? It is quite rare.
It was in January and the AHL team had a bunch of young guys they wanted to develop. My agent just told them that instead of having a guy who is 35 and going down to the minors taking up the ice-time of guys they want to develop that he has a team in Germany looking for a forward. They’ll give you X amount of money to let him play for that team for the rest of the year. That way, he’s still playing, you’ll get a little bit money, your guys are developing in the minors and don’t lose their ice time. They seemed to be okay with that idea. It was nice, because it let me see German hockey and I’ve got a feel for that. That year, it was a really good experience.
Did you have offers from other teams when you decided to play in Germany?
When I came to Nurnberg, there was another NHL lockout. I was just coming of a three-year deal with Florida. I knew the door into the NHL was probably closing. If the NHL started on time, I would probably get a try-out and see what would happen. But with the lockout, there wasn’t going to be a lot of try-outs. Teams would only have one-week try-outs and then they would start. We also had baby in September, so I wanted to stick around for that and would start looking for opportunities afterwards. In Nurnberg, at the end of September, a guy blew out his shoulder and was out for about four months, so they were looking for a center. They weren’t looking for a guy who would go back to the NHL after two months. They wanted a guy for the full year. At that point, I said I’ll come over and I’ll stay. I didn’t think that getting another job in the NHL was realistic. That’s why I went over and it’s been great experience, for both me and my family.
Was adapting to a different culture and language a hard process for you?
It was a little hard at first, but the first three months at Mannheim took the initial difficulties of the adaptation away. I knew what I was coming into, because I played in Nurnberg a few times during the playoffs. I knew the city a little bit. I knew guys who have played here and they were saying that it’s a really nice city. Coming into it, I was really excited. The language was always going to be hard, because it’s a though language to learn. When we first got there, we put our son into German school. I also started to take classes in German. That was bumpy at first, but after two weeks it was all smooth and now my son’s fluent. My wife also speaks it and I’m still learning. (laughs)
Can you speak with people in German?
A little bit. If they speak really slowly, I get it sometimes. I started taking a German class and I was really enjoying it and doing well, but my next class would start at the beginning of the next season. I would miss the first five or six classes because of road trips, which would be too much, so that didn’t work out for me. I still have workbooks and I work on that stuff. I speak with some of the German guys on our team as well, but I still want to get better. My 8-year-old son’s fluent, so he’s my translator.
What was the first German word you learned?
Danke (thank you), probably.
Quality-wise, is the German league better than other leagues, for example the AHL?
Yeah, I think that German hockey is better than the AHL. It’s definitely a different game over here. I think it’s the closest European league to North America. The Swiss league has its style, so does the KHL and Sweden. Slovakia also has its own style. I think that the German league has a very North American style of play. That’s another reason why I like playing in this league.
Have you already talked about what will happen after the season?
Yeah. Every season, I try to just go year by year. I’m enjoying it right now, but I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so we’ll see. I’m still in the decision-making process, whether I want to play another year or retire. Either way, I’m comfortable with both options, because I’ve had a lot of fun throughout my career and experienced great things, so we’ll see.
If you retire, will you stay here or will you go back to North America?
I’ll probably go back to Denver, because that’s where our home base is. We still have a house there. I already have several ideas about what I want to do after I retire and then we’ll go from there.
You spent your summers in Denver?
Yeah, a lot of guys that have played for the Avs end up living there full-time, because it’s such a great city.
Are you in contact with your former Avalanche teammates?
There’s guys I talk to, with whom I’ve played there like Rick Berry and Scott Parker. I haven’t talked to some of the guys in a while, but it’s always great every time we see each other. It’s a pretty tight community and I know that once I’ll get back, I’ll get more involved in the alumni group there. I’m looking forward to being a part of that. From what I hear from my friends who are involved in it, it’s a really great group.
Where is your Stanley Cup ring?
At home in Denver and hidden away.
Do you think Nurnberg has a good chance of winning the championship?
We have a lot of speed, lot of skill and a lot of experience in the locker room. I think that if we can stay healthy, anything can happen. We definitely have some great players.
Do you know that after last season, you remained the only active player from the 2001 Cup-winning team?
Yeah, I think my agent told me that. I knew Tanguay was still playing as of last year, but I wasn’t sure about Skoula, but he must’ve retired at some point. We’re getting older.
What do you think about Patrick Roy’s decision to leave the team in summer? Was it something you’d expect from him based on his personality?
I really don’t know. He’s a fierce competitor and that’s one of the reasons he was such a great goalie. He just doesn’t want to lose and he’s so competitive and that’s great, because that’s what you want in a teammate or a coach. As far as that decision goes, I have no idea, but I know he loves hockey. He respects his management, but other than that, I can’t comment on it. I know he cares about the game and cares about his team.
Do you still follow the Avalanche?
Yeah, I try to follow results of most NHL games. We have a little pool on our time, so you’re always checking on that. It’s fun to follow. I always kind of check the results of the Avs, Coyotes and Oilers. These are my three teams.
More photos of Steven and Philippe from the game and from our trip in Germany can be seen at the bottom of the article. Visit the photo gallery for the entire collection.
text: David Puchovsky, translation/transcription: Michal Hezely, Slovakia, firstname.lastname@example.org
30/11/2016 - 19:00