by Paul Ryan | AHL On The Beat Archive
Hockey is a family game. Whether it’s a parent driving kids to practice, coaching the team, or the sibling that cheers them on, everyone is involved in the sport. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers personify this notion better than any other team.
The first example many point to is Griffin Reinhart. Griffin’s brothers Max and Sam are both highly touted prospects as well. Their father, Paul, had a successful 11-year career of his own after being selected 12th overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Flames. Griffin looks back fondly on his time growing up with his brothers, finding it difficult to pinpoint one specific memory.
“There’s so many but one that stands out is every Christmas we’d spend up in Whistler, just outside of Vancouver,” Reinhart says. “We’d wake up Christmas morning and would always get a new hockey stick. Then we’d go to a friend’s place and they had their own indoor skating rink so we’d go up there with some friends and have a little shinny time during the holidays.”
Adam Pelech is another stellar example of coming from a great hockey family. His brother Michael is one of the top scorers in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies and oldest brother Matt is playing for the Rochester Americans. He is also the nephew of former Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis.
“My best memory is when my dad would flood the backyard and make a rink,” the Toronto native recalls. "We’d all play out there together. I’m five and seven years younger than my brothers so I was pretty young when we would do that and that was definitely a lot of fun.”
The list doesn’t stop there. Justin Courtnall is the son of Geoff and nephew of Russ Courtnall. Colton Gillies’ uncle, Clark, is an Islanders legend and Hockey Hall of Famer.
“I remember when I was Grade 3, there was a hockey book in our elementary school library and he was in it. I think that’s one of the reasons I had that passion. I saw my uncle played and I knew I could do it too,” Colton said.
It’s not just brothers and dads, however, as the women’s game is well represented, too. Aaron Ness’ sister currently serves as the captain at St. Cloud State University. Mario Lamoureux, who signed with the Sound Tigers on a Professional Try Out earlier in the season, is the older brother of Olympians Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls. Kevin Poulin is not related to fellow Quebec native and Canadian Olympic star Marie-Philip Poulin, but it’s best to clear that one up just in case.
And last, but certainly not least, is Lukas Sutter. Coming from arguably the greatest hockey family of all-time, Lukas’ father Rich and five of his brothers all had substantial careers in the NHL. One of those brothers is Darryl, who has coached the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
“Often times I get asked what it’s like being part of the family, but for me, I don’t know any different,” Sutter says. “It’s just my family. It just so happens that my uncles, cousins and my dad all played in the NHL.”
Sutter has several cousins playing professional hockey, including the Penguins’ Brandon Sutter and the Wild’s Brett Sutter. Lukas considers himself closest with his cousin Brody, who is in a similar situation in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers. The two speak two or three times a week and talk about, what else, but hockey.
And yet, Lukas didn’t feel forced into the sport when he was young. There was no pressure or push to play hockey when he was a kid. It was always something that he loved.
“When you’re around something so much, you’re just drawn to it,” Sutter says. “It doesn’t matter what walk of life it’s in. If you’re exposed to it at a young age, you just kind of take a liking to it.
“From the time I was two or three, I was watching NHL games every day. I think I got my first pair of skates when I was two and slept in them. I got my first set of equipment when I was three and slept in it. It’s just something that’s always been a love of mine.”
There are other players in Bridgeport with successful families, but there’s too many to fit in just one article. However, whether it’s the Sutters, the Reinharts or the Pelechs, one thing trumps all: family.
“My parents played a huge role [in my career],” Pelech says. “We’d all have practice every night, a game the next night so it was definitely pretty tough for them to drive us around and get us everywhere we needed to be for hockey.”
“[My parents] made a lot of sacrifices,” Reinhart says. “Waking up early, going out of their way to drive us. We’re really grateful for that and we thank them a lot, but they never pressured us into playing. They put us in to start, we loved it and carried it on.”