Mitch Reinke’s path to professional hockey began in the St. Croix Valley and that is where the 2014 Stillwater Area High School graduate plans to spend the day while in possession of the Stanley Cup on Monday, July 22.
The public is invited to join Reinke for a celebration and photo opportunity with the Stanley Cup at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
“As soon as I found out I get a day with the Cup I knew,” Reinke said. “The community is what helped get me to where I am to today. As a kid, that was my dream to win the Stanley Cup and that’s what I want the youth hockey community to see as well. I think it will be a fun day.”
Reinke made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues at the end of the 2017-18 season before spending this past season playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.
The 23-year-old did not play for the Blues during the run to their first Stanley Cup title in 52 years of existence. He practiced with and accompanied the team throughout the playoffs as one of its “Black Aces”, a term used to describe players who can be added to the postseason roster due to injury. Reinke celebrated on the ice after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals and also participated in the team’s victory parade.
Even though he didn’t play, Reinke was treated like a team member throughout its memorable postseason run.
“There was only three of us Black Aces that spent most of the year in San Antonio,” Reinke said. “They did a great job of welcoming us and treating us like everybody else. We were a part of everything and it was really special to be a part of it. You make the most memories with people when you win and some of those memories will never be forgotten.”
Despite appearing in just one previous NHL game, Reinke needed to prepare for the possibility of getting thrown into the playoff pressure cooker at a moment’s notice.
“There’s a lot of responsibility and you just have to take it upon yourself to stay ready and make sure you’re in shape,” Reinke said. “That’s the hard part is you never know if and when your number will be called and you have to be ready if it’s called. It’s just staying focused and ready like the rest of the guys.”
According to the Blues, the Stanley Cup will travel more than 28,000 miles from July 1-Aug. 25 while visiting each player and coach across five countries and three continents.
“I wasn’t sure if I was getting a day with the Cup,” Reinke said. “I just kind of wasn’t expecting much and hoping for the best.”
Reinke has previous experience with the Stanley Cup as a youngster. He’s also hoping this won’t be his last opportunity for an up-close encounter.
“I think every kid dreams about it,” Reinke said. “I got to see it at the Hockey Hall of Fame and when it was at the All-Star Game Fan Fest (in 2004). I think as I progressed along the levels of hockey from the USHL to Division I college hockey, I realized I had a shot to play in the NHL one day. I still have a lot to accomplish in my career and it just makes me hungry to achieve more.”
Prior to signing with the Blues, Reinke spent two years playing at Michigan Tech. As a prep, Reinke was one of the top defensemen in the state while leading Stillwater to its first-ever state tournament appearance in 2014. He followed that with two seasons playing for Cedar Rapids in the USHL.
By providing this upcoming opportunity for young players to celebrate with the Stanley Cup, Reinke is hoping it inspires others to chase their dreams.
“It’s unbelievable and definitely cool to see it come full circle,” Reinke said. “I hope kids realize I was in their shoes and played in Stillwater hockey — just like they are — and they can do this if they want to work hard and try to achieve their goals.”
Reinke is also looking forward to sharing the Cup with his two biggest supporters.
“I’m really excited to show my parents (Chris and Mickie) and have my parents hold the Cup,” Reinke said. “They’ve given me so much and so many opportunities in my life. That will be a special moment for me, but also my close friends and the whole community of Stillwater. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I’m proud to be from Stillwater and really excited to share this with everyone.”
Reinke enjoyed a productive season in the AHL, finishing with a rookie team record 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points in 76 games. He became just the fourth Rampage player named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
“I think I just have to stay the course,” Reinke said. “I think my development has been continually growing, so I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and work hard and if I do that I’ll get to where I want to go, which is the NHL permanently.”
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at email@example.com