Glenn Reichler is not a name that many SHL fans will remember. The journeyman reserve forward played 79 games over four seasons in the league with four different teams. When the contract offers dried up after the 2018 season, the then-33-year-old Reichler retired without fanfare and accepted a job as an assistant coach for the Michigan Gray Wolves’ minor-league affiliate, the Cleveland Centurions.
“I love the game enough that I wasn’t ready to go get a real job,” said Reichler, “even though I wasn’t good enough to play anymore.”
Just when Reichler was getting used to his playing days being over, however, a key injury and a thin market in free-agent forwards combined to offer the now-35-year-old a second chance of sorts.
On Sunday, the Centurions faced off against the Omaha Ashcats. Cleveland lost 1-0, and to add injury to insult, RW Boris Badenov was helped off the ice in the third period after being crunched into the boards, and he did not return. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, and could miss as much as six weeks. The offense-starved Centurions suddenly found themselves with a hole on their second line and no good options for filling it.
There are a handful of available free-agent forwards out there, but they all have reputations as very poor defenders, which makes them unpalatable to a defense-minded Cleveland club. The coaching staff gathered to review the possible options. Reichler was so unimpressed with the available options that he blurted, “Hell, I’d be better than most of these guys!”
It was a careless remark born of frustration, but Cleveland’s other coaches took it seriously. Reichler has reportedly remained in good shape during his transition to the bench, and he’s looked sharp while running drills with the team. After some persuasion from the front office and after passing a medical exam, Reichler signed a short-term contract with the team.
“I’m not deluding myself here,” the coach-turned-player noted. “I don’t think this is my ticket back to the big leagues or anything. But if I can help the team weather a temporary problem by getting back on the ice, I’m not going to pass that up.”
Wisely, the 35-year-old didn’t rush back to the ice; he gave himself a few days to get into game shape. He made his debut on Saturday, skating on the third line and recording a +2 rating in a 5-4 overtime upset of first-place Hartford.
“It felt good to be out there, moving at game speed again,” Reichler noted after his re-debut. “It’s a real rush.”
He acknowledged again, however, that he doesn’t expect the rush to last forever. “Ask me again tomorrow, when the muscles start to stiffen up,” Reichler said with a smile. “I’m happy to relive my playing days for a few weeks, but I know that’s as far as it goes. Making it through a game is one thing; making it through a season at 35 is something else.”
Does Reichler anticipate a wave of recently-retired players deciding to lace up their skates again? “Definitely not,” he said. “If anything, I’ll probably prove why us old goats are better off staying retired.”