On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Jets’ newest forward Kristian Reichel joined Game On Magazine’s associate editor Carter Brooks for a virtual one-on-one from his home in Czech Republic. The 22-year-old shared the exciting story of how he found out about his new two-year, entry-level contract with the Jets, how he was forced to keep it a secret for a couple of days, and how excited he is to be in the fold with Winnipeg going forward.
Read the full interview below:
How excited are you feeling right now after signing this new contract with the Winnipeg Jets?
“The excitement was huge. When I find out the first day that the Winnipeg Jets gave me an offer, it was huge excitement in my family and myself too. Because that much work that I put in to it for the last six years to sign an NHL deal as an undrafted player, so all the feelings came through me. It was an emotional day. Very exciting.”
You mentioned excitement in your family. Have you been given some tips and pointers from your Dad (former NHL player Robert Reichel) to help you as an undrafted player over the past little while?
“Oh yeah. He gave me lots of advice towards my hockey career. I think he helped me a lot through the process to get me to where I am right now. I think he deserved it, the things he taught me how to act, how to work hard and pursue your dream, even if it doesn’t happen right away, but to work hard and one day make it happen.”
Was this an ongoing conversation with Winnipeg, or something your agent was working on? How did you find out about this contract?
“I was actually at my friend’s wedding. My good buddy and old teammate from my hometown had a wedding so I found out right there. It was pretty quick. My agent was talking with the Jets for a while now. We had some meetings last week, it happened on Saturday and on Monday it was released. It was a busy weekend but I’m happy for that.”
So you found out at your friend’s wedding on Saturday… Was it hard to keep that news inside before it became public on Monday?
“Oh yeah, that was really hard! Because my dad was invited too for the wedding. So he told me there, and I spoke to my agent right away. But it was really hard. It was his day; it was his wedding, so I kept it to myself and I was happy. So then I just told him when they released it that this happened on Saturday, but I kept it a secret from him and everyone else.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, how does one physically sign the contract? Was it an email? How did this process physically work?
“It went through the email. They sent me the offer, I signed it here, scanned it back. Then I think they sent it to the NHL to register it. It happened quickly, but I’m happy for that. Of course I had to take a photo signing it too. It was a little bit different than in person. But the circumstances are like that. We need to work off our phones now for contracts and with our media stuff with email. It’s a hard time now, but I’m not feeling anything bad about it. I might have signed a contract through email, but I don’t doubt it’s real.”
Looking at a couple guys like Jansen Harkins and Mason Appleton, are there some things over the past couple years that you have learned from teammates like that who have furthered their career with the Moose and then moved on to the Jets?
“Oh for sure. From the two years that I have been with the Moose. These guys have really helped me to see how good I really need to be if I want to play for the Jets one day. They are there 100 percent at the practices and games. Their skills and levels of hard work and all that stuff helps me to get to that point. There are so many players with the Moose who have helped me get to that point: Ryan White, Cam Schilling, Marko Dano, lots of these guys helped me through that, and I am really appreciative of that.”
I am sure that you have learned a lot the past two years, but what really sticks out for you with the Moose?
“Well, from the coaching staff – from Pascal to Marty to Zinger – I saw that opportunity there, I saw the help that they give to me. They gave me lots of advice to what I need to bring, and where I need to be better and when. So all that stuff is in the team and lots of people helped me to that point. I am really happy that they gave me their hand and taught me how to work to that point.”
What are your goals for the 2020-21 season?
“I want to be ready when the season starts… I don’t know when that will be, but I want to be ready when the training camps begin. I want to prove that they didn’t sign be badly, and I deserve It. I want to work my ass off all the time to give them the choice that they say, “Okay, we like this guy, this is why we signed him,”. So I want to prove them good, and see how things will go, and see if I got an opportunity or not.”
With the 2019-20 season cancelled early, has it given you some extra time to workout, or what have you been up to the past few months?
“Well, it was the same for all the players. Before they cancelled the season I was doing some light stuff for my core with no weight. And now I started doing some heavier weights in the gym. I have also started doing some hard running, so I will be ready when the season will start.”
Have you made any big purchases since signing this new contract?
“Haha no, nothing yet. I will keep the money. I’m not that guy who spends lots of money, so I will keep the money and we will see what happens. Maybe if things continue to get better here in Europe, maybe I will go for vacation with my family or girlfriend. But right now I am not thinking about it, so we’ll see.”
Reichel’s new deal features a salary of $715K in 2020-21 and $790K in 2021-22 if playing with the Jets. Should Reichel spend his seasons with the Moose, he would make $70K annually. He put together 12 goals and 17 points in 39 games for Manitoba this past season, following a 2018-19 campaign that saw him score twice, while adding eight assists in 55 games. His contract is of the one-way variety.