Plum native Reiter's NHL dream lives on
Ten years ago, Kenny Reiter left his home in Plum to crisscross America with a hockey bag on his shoulder and a goalie stick in his hand.
The next leg of his journey will be to the mailbox. Reiter will sign a two-way minor league contract with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, where the 25-year old goalie will continue his NHL quest.
A junior hockey journeyman turned NCAA champion, Reiter is Plum's next NHL prospect. After attending a prospect camp with the New York Islanders in late June, Reiter's contract to play for Bridgeport, the Islanders' AHL affiliate, was in the mail early this week.
When it arrives, a few swipes of a pen should validate thousands of miles and a decade on the ice away from home.
“Once I sign my name on that paper, it's going to sink in a little bit,” Reiter said. “I left home at 15, so it's been pretty much a decade of ups and downs in my junior career, and with college — that's probably the brightest point of my career so far — just a lot of hard work, man, a lot of hard work and sacrifice from both myself and my family.”
Reiter's two-way contract is with the AHL and the East Coast Hockey League, meaning he's not signed with the Islanders — at least not now.
One of five goalies among the 47 players invited to the Islanders' prospect camp on Long Island, Reiter ended up splitting a shutout victory in the Orange team's 6-0 romp over the Blue in the June 28 intrasquad scrimmage.
He's signing with the Islanders' minor league affiliate mostly because he feels the opportunity is there with the organization, and that's all Reiter needs, according to his college coach.
“He's always been a battler,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin, under whom Reiter won an NCAA Division I championship as a junior. “I think with him, certainly he's got an opportunity.
It's a tough position the higher up you go, but with his work ethic and his maturity level, I mean, I would put nothing by his opportunity just to get a chance to play at the highest level.”
For Reiter to join Columbus' R.J. Umberger as a Plum native in the NHL, it'll likely require more hard work and sacrifice, which probably seem routine to Reiter by now.
From 2002-07, Reiter played junior hockey in Danville, Ill.; Texarkana, Texas; Cleveland, St. Louis — where his host family was that of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny — and Fairbanks, Alaska, where Minnesota-Duluth coaches noticed him.
Last April, he signed an amateur tryout contract with Bridgeport, appearing in one game before the Sound Tigers' season ended. He'll return this fall as a rookie.
“I've always been the guy that's kind of had to scratch and claw for everything I've earned. So, I'm prepared to do that again if I have to,” Reiter said. “But for me, I feel it's a great situation with a good organization, and I feel that the opportunity was there.
“So that was the biggest aspect for me, especially coming out of college.”
Pat Mitsch is a freelance writer.