That’s a longer sentence than some criminals spend behind bars for
stealing cars and breaking into houses, but that’s the amount of time Chad Hinz
has spent stirring in the AHL. Then all
of a sudden the Saskatchewan born center escaped the big house in Toronto to
finally make a break for the big leagues in Edmonton.
As it turned out it was a short stay, but a
pleasurable one, more like a conjugal visit than the Great Escape.
Chad Hinz was drafted by the Oilers way back in 1997
and the 24-year-old has spent every season since 1999 skating with their AHL
farm team. Just when he had begun
thinking the call might never come, the phone rang and Edmonton gave him a
plane ticket to Oilerville to temporarily fill in for Jarret Stoll who was out
with inflamed tonsils.
As the saying goes, if it weren’t for bad luck he’d
have no luck at all, and in the case of Hinz, it appeared true. After missing his first flight out to hook
up with the team in Arizona, Hinz did make it time for the game day morning skate. At the morning workout Chad was told that he
would dress for the game in Phoenix last week but still he ended up being a
healthy scratch. Stoll ended up
recovering quickly from his ailment and Hinz never did get into a game in his
weeklong recall from Toronto.
Oiler Assistant GM Scott Howson recently
commented on the long time member of his hockey club.
“Chad’s a good
two-way player, he hasn’t really put up the offensive numbers that he probably
thought he would as he had big numbers in junior,” said Howson. “He’s become a really valuable checker but
he provides some offense too as a center.
We’ve tried him on the wing but he’s a much better center.”
“He’s been on
two teams that have gone deep in the playoffs playing a regular role against all
the teams top lines and he’s killed every penalty.”
When asked if
Hinz was a known quantity around the AHL or the NHL, Howson said that he’s a
respected player in hockey circles.
little bit but when I talk to teams they know who he is and they know he’s a
good minor league player,” said Howson.
“He’s a guy who could come up here and play on a short-term basis for
sure because he’s very responsible defensively.”
Hockey’s Future talked with Hinz during his sojourn
to Edmonton and Hinz was open to discussing a myriad of topics.
HF: You are
from the Saskatoon area correct?
CH: I grew up
just north of Saskatoon in a small town called Laird right beside
Rosthern. I’d go play for Rosthern and
we’d get all the surrounding towns and make sort of an All-Star team because
all these little towns would only have a couple of guys each but we actually
had great teams and we won provincial championships. I played my minor hockey there until I was 15 and then I moved to
Saskatoon to play AAA and then I went on to Moose Jaw.
Playing for Moose Jaw of the WHL you put up a lot of offensive numbers,
especially in your last season when you had 117 points. The offensive part of your game hasn’t really
carried through with you to the AHL though has it?
CH: No, I
don’t think I’ve had a breakthrough year where I’ve felt that I’ve put up the
numbers that I can. There are certain
years that you’re happy with your offensive output and you say ‘OK, I thought I
was capable of that’. Hopefully that’s still
in my future and I think I haven’t lost that part of my game.
Is that just a by-product of having a different role as you move up from
one level of hockey to the next?
it’s been a thing where the first couple of years in the league it was just
getting used to things and then maybe I just got stuck in a more defensive
role. Now in the last year I’m just
trying to find it again. This year has
been a year where I’ve gotten a lot of ice time and I’ve been able to kind of
do what I want without a coach being on my back to be worried about my
defensive game. So with the freedom
I’ve gotten this year I’m still trying to figure out some of the plays that I
used to make and just get that offensive timing back but I think it’s still
there and it’s going to come through.
Obviously you must be happy to finally get the call after spending the
last four or five years down on the farm.
going on my fifth year so I was starting to think if they even think of me as a
possibility to ever get called up or did they think of me as a career minor
leaguer? You start wondering if the
organization is the right one for you or not.
It was kind of funny because last week I was talking to my dad and I was
maybe getting a little down about it. I’ve played nearly five years in the minors now and I’ve played
with a lot of these guys in this room and seeing guys getting called up ahead
of you over and over again it gets pretty frustrating or depressing, whatever
you want to call it. My dad was telling
me just to be patient and not to let it affect my game and then three days
later I got the call so it was kind of eerie how it worked out.
How do you hope to contribute to the Oilers while you are up here
considering you might not even get into a game?
CH: Well if I
can get into a game, of course I want to be in the line up but I know
their situation here and every game is really important for them and they need
every game. If I can get into a game
I’m just going to try and be a spark and create some energy for them. I know I’m not going to play a lot but if
they throw me out there than maybe I can produce some energy by digging the
puck out of the corner and taking it to the net or by throwing a big hit. Just anything to try and create that spark.
Looking at the situation in Toronto, being that it’s practically an
expansion team, being in a playoff position now is really quite an
CH: I think
we’ve always had a pretty decent AHL team.
The start of the season was tough on us when we had so many games on the
road because our rink wasn’t ready.
It’s tough to build confidence like that early, especially when you’re
on the road. It was hard to claw our
way back from the bad start so just getting to the .500 mark was nice and the
three wins over the weekend was big. We
have a lot of home games now because of all the road games at the start of the
year. The whole team got closer
together on the road early like that and now we’re going to be rested up for
the playoffs with all the home games so I think we’re going to be able to upset
some teams. Look at Hamilton, they’re
on the top of the league and we have something like a 7-1-1 record against them
so we’d love that first round match up.
It’s actually impressive when you think about how the injuries here in
Edmonton have impacted the team in Toronto.
I mean, (Bishai) gets called up here, and I know that’s no loss to the
(From just within earshot)
(Big laughs all around)
Bishai: I guess
they got the bad apple out of there and they started winning!
At times it’s been like a revolving door with the roster down there
between players coming up here or going down to the ECHL hasn’t it?
CH: For sure
it has and I think that says a lot about the Oiler organization and how they
draft players because it seems like it’s every year. They don’t have the money to get the big free agents but it seems
like every year they always field a strong team in both leagues and with the
money they have that can be tough. I
think it’s a tribute to their scouting that they seem to always have a winning
product on the ice.
HF: Who are
your linemates in Toronto?
CH: I’ve been
playing with (Nate) DiCasmirro and (Sean) McAslan. We play against the other team’s top lines
and we’ve been doing pretty well at shutting them down. It’s a good line that works well together,
we’re pretty gritty in the corners and we get some good hits so it’s worked out
HF: Whom do
you room with on the road?
CH: I was with
Michael Henrich actually but he had some funny habits. He likes his room so cold that I’d wake up
with a head cold in the morning. I like
a warm room and then I chuck the blankets off but with him I’d always be
freezing in the morning. He’s lights out
at eleven because he’s got insomnia or something and I’m that guy that stays up
to 2:30 AM so I switched it up and went with a rookie so I could do whatever I
HF: So who
are you with now?
CH: I’ve been
with (Brad) Winchester the last couple of weeks. Henrich and I were just at each other’s
throats because he’d be putting the air conditioner on and I’d be turning the
heater on so we had to switch it up. If
you get a rookie you can tell him ‘OK, this is the way it’s going to be and
you’re going to like it!’
Since you’ve been in the AHL for so long now, do you find that you’re in
a leadership role for some of the young guys like Winchester or Joe Cullen for
biggest thing with some of those guys, especially coming out of college with a
40 game schedule, is to keep them motivated around this time of year. With an 80 game schedule it gets tough for
those last 20 games to get mentally prepared and battle every night when you’re
not used to that kind of lengthy schedule.
I just try to lead by example and I know from myself as a young player
coming to the rink every night and seeing guys putting in an honest effort that
that’s what it takes. Anyone can say
anything in the dressing room but when they do it on the ice that’s got to mean
that much more and that’s what impressed me as a rookie so that’s what I try to
Some of the young guys like Winchester and Cullen started off slowly but
seem to really be coming around now down the stretch and contributing more
CH: I know
the coaches kind of went in when we were on a losing streak and started
pointing fingers and got on some of the young guys by saying ‘you’ve been here
now for 30 games and you can’t play like rookies anymore’ and I’ve noticed
since then that those young guys, and guys like J.J. (Hunter)
have really been playing well. Every
team needs everyone going and not just the same three or four guys every
night. Your weakest links are going to
kill you so having those guys going, and also because we’re getting really good
goaltending down there too, that’s a big reason why we’ve been winning lately.
Tell me about the ‘Sparkplug’ Award you received last year.
CH: It’s for
the hardest working player in the game, almost like a fourth star of the
game. I was happy with it because even
though I wasn’t maybe in the role where I was on the power play putting up
points, I was still recognized and it’s nice knowing someone noticed you out
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