Though Canada is producing a smaller share of the pie of National Hockey League players, the Los Angeles Kings remain one of the most North American-populated teams in the National Hockey League.
There are only three players on the active Kings roster born outside of North America, tied for the second lowest total amongst the active rosters of all NHL teams.
Those players are Anze Kopitar, Slava Voynov, and Recife, Brazil-born defenseman Robyn Regehr.
Regehr embraces his Brazilian heritage, and he’s proud that his parents still speak a little Portuguese. As a soccer fan, he’ll root for A Seleção at next summer’s World Cup, and he looks forward to visiting his native country when his playing days are over.
“I was actually hoping to do it during the one lockout when we were out all year in 04-05. I ended up doing some different trips that kind of fell into place. I’m not sure. With the family now, it’s a little bit more difficult. Probably it’s on the to-do list right after I’m done playing, when I have a little bit more time to go back there and also learn some Portuguese,” he said.
Regehr left Brazil when he was nine months old, however, so there aren’t any memories of his South American lifestyle. Though fading, there are still plenty of images he can recall of his early upbringing in the town of Poso on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, and he does remember some of the language.
“We had some exotic pets,” he said. “We had a little miniature jungle cat at one point. We had a monkey.”
The son of Mennonite missionaries, many of Regehr’s earliest recollections surrounded the social efforts undertaken by his parents, and their efforts to raise the quality of life of an impoverished area.
His father had a degree in agriculture and assisted in raising livestock and encouraging sustainability in planting crops. His mother, a registered nurse, worked in healthcare and provided information to mothers on providing basic nutrition for their children – “different things that sometimes maybe we take for granted,” he said.
There are still aspects of adulthood that provide flashbacks – seeing decorative paintings and sarongs tend to jog the memory of his early childhood.
“The places we lived at – sleeping under mosquito nets as kids. Just being outside all the time,” he recalls of some of his earliest memories. “The beauty of it – it was a really nice place to live, even though it was very poor, the places we were.”
As part of a foundation laid by his parents, his willingness to help those less fortunate has helped to shape his career as a hockey player. In 2008, he traveled to Mozambique as part of the Right to Play project, a charity that relies on athletes to “educate and empower” children in disadvantaged areas around the world through sports and athletics.
He was six and a half when he left Indonesia, returning to his family’s home in Rosthern, Saskatchewan.
“It’s a town of 1600 people. 1500 people around there. And that’s if everyone’s home,” he said.
The most significant part of his adolescence was spent there and in nearby Prince Albert, where he played midget hockey for the Prince Albert Mintos before embarking on a career that took him from major junior hockey to the National Hockey League, where he made his debut as a 19-year-old with Calgary in 1999.
And while he supports Canada in everything surrounding the sport of hockey – he has worn a Maple Leaf in World Juniors, the World Cup and the Olympic Games – there’s still a tie in to Indonesia and Brazil, whom he’ll also support in international competition.
“When it comes to different sports, and soccer, beach volleyball, some of the sports that they have that they’re very good at, I enjoy watching them and cheering for Brazil as a country, because even though I wasn’t there for very long, still being born there, you have a tie there that is still fairly significant.”
Brazil will host the Olympics is 2016 after hosting next year’s World Cup – a competition Regehr will devote significant attention to.
“I like soccer a lot. Still enjoy it. Still play with the guys here when we go to warm-up, our little one-touch, two-touch games and things like that. I really enjoy it as a sport because it provides a lot of exercise and entertainment for a very simple sport. You pretty much just need an open field and a ball and some shoes, and away you go. I think it’s a really good sport.”
So though the Kings don’t boast a locker room as international as some teams – Detroit leads the NHL with 12 active players born outside of North America – there’s Regehr, whose youth and upbringing is as international as any player’s in the league.
Not every player had a miniature jungle cat as a pet.
“They were very positive memories,” he said.