Nelson’s Geoff Kinrade will pull on Canada’s colours later this week when the Spengler Cup opens in Switzerland.
The former Nelson Minor Hockey standout and Nelson Junior Leafs defenceman was named to the Canadian entry in the tournament that features some of the best players Europe has to offer.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to it,” Kinrade told the Nelson Star. “It will be the first time I get to represent Canada. Other teams in the tournament, as well as our team, are bringing in a bunch of NHL players so the calibre of hockey will be very high.”
With the NHL lockout, Canada’s roster is sprinkled with some formidable talent. Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagne and Tyler Seguin are amongst the notables that would be playing in the NHL over the holidays if not for the labour dispute.
Kinrade’s addition to the roster comes during a season which he is experiencing some great success in the Swiss-A League with Bern.
After winning the Calder Cup with Binghampton Senators in 2011, Kinrade made the decision to pack his bags and head across the Atlantic.
“I was restricted with Ottawa and they gave me the impression that I was not in their near future plans,” Kinrade said of his decision to exit the American Hockey League. “I didn’t want to spend my career in the minors.”
Kinrade started the 2011-12 season in the Czech League with Plzen HC where he played 34 games.
“Bern needed another defenceman for playoffs due to injuries,” Kinrade explained of his move to the well-respected Swiss-A League. “Bern contacted Ottawa and other scouts to get some reviews on me and I guess they liked what they heard. They made me an offer and contacted my Czech team’s player manager Milan Tichy and asked if they would release me. Knowing it was a great opportunity for me, they released my rights with no problems. I owe them a lot for what they did.”
Kinrade grew up in the Nelson Minor Hockey system and led the Nelson Junior Leafs in scoring as a 16-year-old rookie. After two seasons with the Leafs, Kinrade made the jump to Junior A where he played two seasons with the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals. The speedy blueliner then spent four seasons of NCAA college hockey with Michigan Tech.
Upon graduating from college, Kinrade signed on with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL and played his first (and at this point only) NHL game late in the 2008-09 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Kinrade signed with the Ottawa Senators for the 2009-10 season, attended their training camp and was assigned to the Binghampton farm team.
The jump to Europe last season was not only a change of scenery, but a change in the way the game is played.
“The style and systems of the game are adapted to the larger ice surface, it’s a much higher tempo game,” said Kinrade. “I did have to adjust my game. It took some time to trust the different systems since I had been trained differently my entire career. But once I adapted, I felt very comfortable.”
Heading into the Spengler Cup break, his Bern squad sits two points out of first place.
The lockout has also spurred the arrival of some impressive talent in Europe. Patrick Kane, Brooks Laich, Henrik Zetterberg, Cory Schneider, Joe Thornton, Petr Sykora, Rick Nash, Dustin Brown, Bergeron, Spezza and Seguin are all included in the competition Kinrade faces each game. On his own team, Kinrade plays alongside Tavares, Byron Richie and Mark Streit.
“He’s a good guy and he’s playing well,” Kinrade said of Tavares, who was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders in 2009. “I think he’s enjoying it here.”
Kinrade said the level of play has increased slightly with the arrival of the locked out NHLers.
“Almost every team’s first line is very strong,” said Kinrade. “But since only four non-Swiss players can be on the game roster, its doesn’t effect the game too much.”
The Spengler Cup is set in Davos, Switzerland and this year has six teams taking part. Canada will join host HC Davos, Germany’s Adler Mannheim, HC Vitkovice Steel from Czech, Swiss-A League’s HC Fribourg-Gotteron and Russia’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
Canada opens the tournament on Boxing Day against Adler Mannheim at the Valliant Arena. The finals are set for New Year’s Eve and TSN plans coverage of the tournament during the six days.
After the Spengler stint, Kinrade will return to Bern which he describes as a familiar setting.
“Bern is a nice city,” said Kinrade. “The Swiss live very well. There is a large clean river that runs right through the downtown. It’s a good spot to cool off in the summer. In the winter, the Alps provide the same activities as in BC. It’s the closest to BC I will find over here in Europe.”