After splitting time between Boston and Providence from 2005 to 2009, the winger signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders. Among his reasons, he said at the time, was Isles bench boss Scott Gordon, the head man during Reich's first two seasons with the P-Bruins.
Gordon relied heavily on the winger for leadership, grit and toughness in Providence. More than halfway through the 2006-07 campaign, Reich's perseverance in the AHL paid off, and he graduated from Providence to Boston, where he enjoyed a successful conclusion to the season and was rewarded with a new two-year deal.
Reich spent the entire 2007-08 season in Boston, the first full NHL season of his career, but fell victim to a numbers game in training camp the following year that resulted in a season-long stay in Providence. The forward never complained, not once. Instead, he captained the P-Bruins, mentored the organization's youth, scored a career-high 21 goals and led what was the AHL's youngest team to the conference finals.
When the 2008-09 season ended, Gordon came calling for his former locker-room leader, and Reich viewed the opportunity as a good chance to return to the NHL. That chance never came to fruition with the Islanders, however, as Reich suffered an injury-plagued season that began in training camp and limited him to just 33 games with the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn. He still managed to contribute 20 points, including 12 goals.
Free agency came again for the 31-year-old forward after a first-round playoff exit to Hershey, and on July 1, 2010, he decided there's no place like the one that has largely been home to the growth of his hockey career.
Boston's signing of Reich is win-win, whether that's in the eyes of the Bruins or the man who signed on the dotted line.
In Reich, Boston gets a vocal personality in the locker room, a guy liked by his peers and someone who is already familiar with Claude Julien, his staff and many of the players. The Bruins also get a player who can provide physical play on the wing on the third or fourth line. They also get someone who can complement Shawn Thornton when it comes to taking on the league's heavyweights and a reliable penalty killer.
But as significant as anything else, the organization has inked a true professional with the proven ability to lead by example — on and off the ice — and help develop the young players of tomorrow for the game's top level. That's what Reich already has done in the AHL for many players. Byron Bitz, Zach Hamill, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka, among others, would all attest to that fact.
In Boston, Reich gets all of the above and more. He gets another shot at the NHL with a team that is never lacking the desire for toughness.
He also gets a comfortable situation in Providence. If he's assigned there, he'll be a significant presence in the locker room, work closely with the coaches, receive considerably more ice time and chip in exponentially more on offense.
Until recent years, Reich was your typical unsung hero, quiet and unheralded. No longer. Reich is revered by the men who have coached him in Providence, whether it was Gordon or, more recently, Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy. The story likely will be the same of Julien.
Reich is entering his 11th pro season. He's played 99 regular-season games in the Show and 565 in the AHL. And the Craik, Saskatchewan, native is not done fighting for a permanent job in the NHL. When training camp rolls around in just a couple of months, we'll find how this hero's story unfolds.
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