I guess you can say Leo Reise Jr. was born into hockey.
The nine-year NHLer was born while his father Leo Sr. was playing in the 1920s with the Hamilton Tigers, New York Americans and New York Rangers. during his own eight-year NHL career. Leo Jr. followed in his footsteps in fine form and by doing so they became the first father and son tandem to play in the NHL.
After splitting his first two seasons between the Chicago Blackhawks and the minors, Leo Jr. joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1946-47. He played six seasons with the Wings where he worked as a fiercely proud journeyman in the shadows of the likes of Gordie Howe. Reise Jr. never really minded, as was part of two Stanley Cups championships.
Reise Jr.'s fellow defensemen included Black Jack Stewart, Marcel Pronovost, Red Kelly and Bill Quackenbush. Talk about a great blue line! But don't dismiss Reise Jr. as a spare part.
His third-period shorthanded goal in Game 7 of the 1949 semifinal against Montreal snapped a 1-1 tie and propelled the Wings to a 3-1 victory. That goal was reputed to be Reise vs the Canadiens, as Reise gathered the puck in his own zone and battled along the boards past all five Montreal skaters before driving a 40-foot shot past Canadiens goalie Bill Durnan.
"Leo Reise scored that goal that broke the tie because he absolutely refused to give up," Wings coach Tommy Ivan said. "He lost the puck twice and got it back because he kept fighting for it."
Then against Toronto in the 1950 semifinals, Reise whipped a backhand off the leg of Leafs defenseman Gus Mortson and behind goalie Turk Broda after 20:38 of overtime for a 2-1 victory. With the seventh game of the series scoreless and into the second OT session, Reise lifted a 35-foot backhander through a crowd past Broda and the Wings moved on to meet and beatt the New York Rangers in the final.
The first Stanley Cup championship in 1950 ranks as Reise Jr.'s career highlight.
"Well I think it has to be the year we won the Stanley Cup in '49-50 when I scored the two overtime goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs to eliminate them out of the semi-finals. It was a pretty rough series. I think those goals I scored in overtime were probably the highlights."
Reise definitely knew how to pick up his game in the playoffs. During his career, he averaged a goal every 18 games during regular-season play, but tallied once every six games in Stanley Cup competition.
Reise Jr. also counts playing in the six-team era as a true highlight. The rivalries were intense, even if Detroit often came out on top in those days.
"Well, we just had rivalries against … a couple years we only lost 11 hockey games. Eleven games one year and only 13 games the next year so we didn't mind playing against anybody. The toughest of all our games were against Toronto and the Canadiens. Richard was a fantastic hockey player. Very great competitor and he was tough to play against. We didn't have any particular team we were afraid of or anything like that. We could beat anybody at any given time. The last few series we only won in eight games. In '51-52 we won the series in eight games, so we were powers."
Reise Jr. mentioned a couple of other players he had great admiration for.
"From the standpoint of great hockey players, Jack Stewart was a fine, great defenceman. Guys like Milt Schmidt were great competitors that played with Boston. But these were great hockey players. You don't idolize them but you want to make sure you can emulate them really."
Reise then finished his career off by playing two more seasons with the New York Rangers. Over his nine NHL seasons, Leo Jr. scored 28 goals, 81 assists, and 109 points in 494 regular season games while adding eight goals and 13 points in 52 playoff contests.
He got out of hockey and returned to Hamilton, operating a plumbing wholesale house which grew to 11 outlets across Ontario. He would later start up a plastic company that he ran for 17 years before he sold his shares.
You get the feeling Reise Jr. is as proud of his non-hockey life as he is of his hockey life, which is the way it should be. Though he was born into hockey and it played a big part of the first half of his life, he moved on and had many interests.
"Well, hockey was a big part of my life for only for nine years. After that, I had business to attend to. And when I got out, I went to McMaster and I got my degree in science there and I got out of that and I went back to accounting which I started when I went into the service and the navy. So I got my Certified General Accountant designation after that. I was busy studying and raising kids and all that sort of stuff. Very busy man."
Leo Reise Jr. was a hard worker, on and off the ice.