NHL bloodlines run through the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Luke Recchi of the Chase Heat and Hayden Hirsch of the Kamloops Storm have family that played in the NHL.
Summerland Steam rookie Noah Eisenhut is the newest to join the list. His father Neil Eisenhut played 16 games with the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. Noah cracked the Steam’s roster at 16, the same age his father played with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in 1983-84.
Neil has fond memories of playing in the KIJHL. Along with the Nitehawks, he played with the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
“It was good. It was a different brand of hockey than it is now. Those were the days when it was nicknamed Jungle B,” he says. “I watch the games now, it’s not. When I played in the NHL, there was clutch and grab. I remember when I was on the Canucks in ‘94, I was the third smallest on the team. I’m six-foot-one. (Pavel) Bure and (Cliff) Ronning were the two guys that were smaller than me. It was a different style of hockey. Clutch and grab, a lot more fighting. A lot more physicality. Now the NHL is pure speed.”
Neil likes the KIJHL.
“I think that (jungle B) stigma is gotta kind of resonate through communities and understand that this is good hockey,” Neil says. “Is there some physical stuff? Yeah, but that is part of the game. When I played there was like three brawls in a season. I was a 16-year-old wet behind the ears. Scared to death out there when some of that happened. You don’t see that anymore or very seldom. It’s getting over that stigma is really important.”
Noah netted his first KIJHL goal in his third game when the Steam faced the Grand Forks Border Bruins, winning 6-0.
“It was pretty cool,” says Noah, who likes to play similar to NHL superstar Patrick Kane. “Got the puck for the goal. It was fun, the guys were loving it.”
On Sept. 25 he got his second and third goals in an 8-2 Steam victory over the Coyotes in Osoyoos.
He’s making the adjustment, especially to the KIJHL speed, which is forcing him to make quicker decisions.
It’s cool for Noah to begin his junior career in the same league his father did. Neil is a big influence and Noah would like to go “all the way” like his dad.
He leans on his dad for advice, which he sees as an advantage. However, he didn’t always listen before. Neil is good friends with former Calgary Flames captain Todd Simpson, who he played with in the Flames organization. They coached together and when their kids were about seven, they kids turned to their fathers and said, ‘What do you know about hockey?’ Looking at each other, Neil and Simpson decided to switch talking to each others kids.
“It was funny because Noah came home one day and says, you know what coach Todd said? He said this and that,” recalls Neil. ‘I said that to you too, Noah.’ But I’m dad.”
When coaching the South Zone team two years ago, Neil made the tough decision to cut his son, but it helped his growth.
“It was the right thing for Noah and his development,” he says, adding it was also best for the team.
Neil says that Noah can improve under Steam coach Ken Karpuk, who he says is a great coach that is hard, but fair.
“That is going to allow Noah to kind of spread his wings. Learn and become a better hockey player,” he adds.
“Every time I get a chance on the ice, I want to make it count,” says Noah. “Hopefully go as far as we can as a team.”
There are similarities between Noah and his dad.
“I just let him kind of go,” says Neil, who won an Allen Cup with Powell River in 2006. “I skated better than Noah. He is working on his skating. He sees the ice like I did. I think he shoots better than I do. I pass better and maybe thought the game a tad better. He’s got that skill. It’s up to him to figure it out. See how to get it to the next level. You can have all the skill you want, you have to have the passion to be a self starter, to get to the next level.”
Neil describes his son as an offensive player with good defensive skills.
“He’s got an ability to find the net. Some guys find a way. You can’t teach it, it just happens. Is he the most prolific goal scorer? No. He is having fun and trying to help the team. He loves the team. The guys are great.
When asked about Noah’s first goal, Neil said he was pumped.
“I didn’t realize how emotional I would get over it. He has always been able to score. He has always had a knack around the net.”
“I think he is going to take a couple months,” Neil continued. “And then he will settle right in with the speed of the game. It’s a learning process for everybody.”