Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Younger Rychel a bit like his pop

Kerby tries to learn as much as possible from Warren

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Nineteen years ago Thursday, Warren Rychel's days with the Winnipeg Jets ended.

Before they even started.

Rychel, an abrasive left-winger, had been obtained by the dear, departed NHL team during the summer of 1991 from the Chicago Blackhawks along with someone named Troy Murray.

By the end of December, Rychel had been shipped off to the Minnesota North Stars for Tony Joseph. Eighteen months after that, Rychel was in the Stanley Cup final with the L.A. Kings and went on to a 406-game NHL stint that featured 38 goals and more than 1,400 penalty minutes.

In the fall of 1991, Rychel played no games for the Jets and 36 games for the Jets' farm team, the Moncton Hawks. He had 14 goals and 211 PIM at the time he was deemed expendable.

"I really thought of myself as a Jet," Rychel said on the trade anniversary, amusingly, back in Manitoba for a second time this year for another hockey tournament. He's now the co-owner and GM of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, the two-time defending Memorial Cup champs, and is here to watch his son Kerby play in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

"I'll be candid with you," Rychel continued. "I really was excited when I came to Winnipeg with Troy in that trade. I thought this was my opportunity. I had a great summer of working out. I had a ton of confidence and my skill level had improved. I had accomplished all I thought I could in the IHL in four years.

"My last year, I had 33 goals and more than 300 (338 actually) minutes in Indy.

"But I think (Jets GM) Mike Smith didn't like me and he was going with a lot of older guys and Europeans. I do have fond memories playing for Dave Farrish in Moncton but I was getting frustrated because a lot of guys were getting called up besides me.

"As time went on, it all worked out and I did get to the NHL and there are no hard feelings. The Jets just had other plans."

Don't feel sorry for Rychel for a second. He played seven full-time seasons in the NHL and has won a lot of playoff rounds since the Jets sent him packing, including the last two Memorial Cups. The Jets and the morphed Phoenix Coyotes? Still under the Rychel -- or insert name here -- curse.

Rychel's junior franchise is enjoying great success and now his son, 16-year-old Kerby, is at the beginning of a journey in the hockey world.

"Way more mature than I was and twice the player," Rychel said of the Team Ontario forward who was his club's player of the game in a 7-1 opening win over Czech Republic.

Kerby, a 16-year-old in his rookie OHL season, has two goals and eight points with the highly touted Mississauga St. Mike's Majors under coach Dave Cameron.

He said he's only a partial chip off the old block.

"I guess there are some similarities," Kerby said Thursday before Team Ontario's game against Slovakia. "He had great leadership and was a hard worker, so I try to take that.

"But I think he was more of a scrapper and I think I'm more of an all-round player, but I'm not afraid to get the gloves off."

The younger Rychel had been slated to join his dad's team this season. The GM had obtained the wink-wink, nudge-nudge from all OHL rivals at the league draft last spring and the path had been cleared for Rychel to choose his son in the second round.

But the GM may have gone one step too far, and traded down on that second-round pick, prompting the rival Barrie Colts to choose Kerby late in the first round. He was subsequently dealt to Mississauga.

"He was only 15 when all that stuff was on the fan," Warren Rychel said of the controversy. "He's been very mature, professional about it and I suppose it's been good for him to get away and cut his own teeth away from home.

"Plus he's playing for a very good coach in Dave Cameron."

Added Kerby: "Me, I'm just happy to be in the league to get things going. I know it's a process. I'm not getting a lot of minutes but I'm fine with that, just trying to work hard and do my role."

Father and son still have the communication lines open.

"When I was younger, he used to teach me a lot more, the finer points," said Kerby, who's not NHL draft-eligible until 2013. "But I think he's let up now, but he still tells me some things he thinks could benefit me."

Kerby was in Brandon in the spring as part of his dad's support group at the Memorial Cup, and that experience has turned out to be a great carrot, he said.

"It was awesome to be here to see them win it," he said. "It's almost unheard of, back-to-back. And to see how much fun they had winning and how they did all the right things off the ice."

There is a version of full circle for the Rychel family this week, proving once again that Jets history doesn't ruin everything.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

THURSDAY

RESULTS

-- U.S. 4 Germany 1

-- Quebec 6

Finland 4

-- Pacific 3 Czech

Republic 2

-- Ontario 5

Slovakia 0

TODAY'S

GAMES

At Portage

-- Pacific vs. Slovakia,

3 p.m.

-- Finland vs. Atlantic,

7:30 p.m.

At MTS Iceplex

-- Quebec vs. Germany,

3 p.m.

-- Czech Republic

vs. West, 7:30 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2010 C4

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