'Mean Ryan Reaves' impresses new Penguins teammates
When Ryan Reaves took the ice for an informal skate with some of his new Penguins teammates Thursday afternoon in Cranberry, he was wearing a black-and-gold No. 75 jersey and was the most intimidating physical presence in sight.
The significance was not lost on Reaves, whose father starred in the Canadian Football League and played briefly with the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins in the 1980s.
“Mean Joe Greene,” Reaves said approvingly. “Mean Ryan Reaves. We'll see if that catches on.”
Reaves already has begun to catch on with his teammates, who have noticed his fun-loving personality and chiseled, 225-pound frame and seem glad to have him on their side.
“I took him out for dinner last night to make sure he protects me,” winger Carl Hagelin said.
Hagelin added that his seat is probably the safest space in the locker room. Reaves sits to his right. Another noted bruiser, Phil Kessel, sits to his left.
“I'm well protected here,” Hagelin said.
Reaves is meeting his new teammates for the first time after coming in from St. Louis in a draft-day trade in exchange for center Oskar Sundqvist and a swap of picks. Almost two dozen Penguins players have begun to gather for voluntary workouts in advance of the official opening of camp Sept. 15.
The owner of 56 career NHL fighting majors, Reaves knows exactly why the Penguins brought him in.
“There's definitely going to be a lot more goals scored on this team this year. I know you guys were struggling with that last year,” Reaves joked.
No, they brought him in to provide a physical edge, which is something he did religiously in his seven seasons with the Blues. In fact, he might have to do some apologizing for past transgressions during his early days with the Penguins.
“I would say me and Sid's relationship before this was rocky,” Reaves said. “We didn't really like each other on the ice. I don't know too many people that like me on the ice. But no, we've hung out a couple times. Really nice guy. Excited to work with him for sure.”
One of the ways Reaves broke the ice with his new team was participating in a fantasy football draft. He took Ezekiel Elliott with the first pick, confident that the rest of his team was good enough to survive the six-week suspension the Dallas Cowboys running back is about to serve.
“I got a bunch of Raiders on my team. Those are my boys. That'll be good,” Reaves said in a comment sure to win no favor with the original No. 75 in Pittsburgh sports lore.
While players such as Reaves, goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Matt Hunwick are using the informal skates to meet new teammates, other Penguins are testing out injuries suffered during last season's playoff run.
Tom Kuhnhackl, for example, revealed that the injury that limited him to 11 playoff games in the spring was a torn groin.
“It got worse and worse the more I skated,” Kuhnhackl said. “If your groin doesn't want to do it, you can't really help the team. It's was frustrating that I couldn't play, but at the same time, I was happy for everybody involved.”
Hagelin said he spent a couple of weeks at the beginning of the summer staying off his feet to let his broken fibula heal properly.
Both said they'll be 100 percent when training camp opens next week.
“This summer, I was more fresh than I have been,” Hagelin said. “Mentally, I feel ready to go. Usually around this time of year when you have such a short summer, maybe you're kind of dreading it a little bit. But I'm ready to go. I had a good summer. I was able to do everything I wanted to do.”