Thursday, April 4, 2013

Getting Regehr a key item for the champion Kings

Larry Wigge

It was not too long ago that opponents would fear coming down on the wrong side of the ice and run right into defenseman Robyn Regehr.

In 2009, when Mike Cammalleri joined Regehr on the Calgary Flames, he said his new teammate would sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

"I would sooner dump the puck into the other end," said Cammalleri, remember his long career with the Los Angeles Kings. "He would scare the snot of me. He would look you in the eyes and I would freeze. Then, he's go right through you.

"For a little guy like me, Robyn was a monster to have to deal with."

A lot of battles have been won -- or lost -- against Regehr, for 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames and for the last two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. But you knew you'd be in a battle with him every time.

That session with Cammalleri came in 2009, he stick was visibly shaken at the thought of having to face Regehr.

"Oh, Robyn's name is known throughout the league," said Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi, who's had his share of battles with Regehr over the years. "Whenever you're coming to Calgary, you know you'd better have the turn on him when you're going down the wing, because if you don't, you'll be in the end boards pretty quickly.

"He's patented that move and stopped a lot of guys just because of that move. Guys pull up on him."

Being a shutdown defender in the NHL these days is no easy feat. Sure, a few years ago, you could hook and hold your way to success.

Now, it's about footwork, body position and smarts.

The 6-3, 225-pound defenseman -- soon to be 34 on April 19 -- was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, first-round, 19th overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Regehr led the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

At the time, the Rosthern, Saskatchewan, native, was a key performer on defense for Darryl Sutter. A recent trade from Buffalo to the Los Angeles Kings for second-round draft choices in 2013 and '14 reunites them.

"Experience, good guy in the back, fills our left side," Sutter said. "He's played a long time and he's a pretty strong identity. That's pretty clear."

Said Regehr, "It's rare to be traded to the defending Stanley Cup champions. Being in a position to win again and with a team that has proven it can do it in the past and wants to do it again. I'm very excited about that. Also familiar with Darryl as a coach and knowing his style and how demanding he is."

"Robyn gives us what Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell provided us with the physical element until there both injured," said GM Dean Lombardi. "This guy's character is off the charts. He is no picnic to play against. This is a guy you'd rather have on your side than to play against."

Lombardi went on to say, "I think there's a good chance we can retain him (Regehr will be an unrestricted free agent after this season). This wasn't looked at as just a player for a rental. We're looking at this as a guy that can fit with us for a number of years.

"We've got more physics projects going on the board than MIT in terms of trying to figure out how to make sure we keep our own." 

Ron Regehr, Robyn's father, is the insurance business. Edith, his mom, is a registered nurse. 

"They gave me my first Montreal Canadiens sweat shirt when I was a kid," Regehr recalled. "They knew I always like Larry Robinson."

Ron and Edith gave Robyn the chance to life his dream. Patience and determination were two of the key elements that they also gave their son. 

Those qualities became extremely important, when Robyn Regehr broke both of his legs in something of a minor miracle. The bigger miracle was that he wasn't killed, when his 1976 Chevy Nova was struck head-on by another car on the night of July 4, 1999.

Regehr was driving his brother and two friends home from a day of water skiing near his parents' home in Rosthern. The impact of the collision killed the two people in the other car and snapped Regehr's legs like a composite hockey stick.

When Regehr's father, Ron, went to look at his son's vehicle after the accident, he was stunned. He prayed for a quick recovery -- and wondered aloud how his sons were not killed. There, stuck between the brake pedal and car floor was one of Robyn's sandals. Try as he might, the father couldn't pry it loose from the Nova's mangled interior.

"I think the accident probably made me a stronger person," Regehr recalled. "You have a sense of being very fortunate, and I do feel fortunate to be here and playing hockey in the playoffs.

"When the accident happened, I wasn't worried about my career because there were more important things to worry about, like not knowing the health of my friends. But after (former Flames general manager) Al Coates saw me at the hospital and told me not to worry, I never had a doubt I'd play again. I didn't know how long it would take, but I knew I'd play.

"I was determined."

Actually, Robyn Regehr missed on 25 games in the 1999-2000 season. 

Being traded to Buffalo and then to Los Angeles is a breeze for the veteran. Getting to know his Kings teammates will happen sooner or later. Learning Sutter's system may be tougher.

"Darryl is a very demanding coach," Regehr said. "I think any player that plays under him, that's one of the first things that he would mention. But, that being said, when you do the kind of stuff that he asks of you, and you do it well, you put yourself in a position to succeed and also become a very good professional.

"I was excited to be back and have that opportunity. I know the type of style -- a very similar style -- of what he asked us to play in Calgary. I should be able to brush the rust off a little bit. It's been a few years and get out there and do it and do it well."

Regehr, no doubt, will scare opposition wingers in the upcoming games.  

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