On Monday, Robyn Regehr will retire from the National Hockey League as a member of the Calgary Flames.
If you’re like me, two thoughts immediately come to mind when hearing this news: (1) Isn’t he already retired? (2) Will this lead to the team honouring him in the future with a banner of some type?
First thing’s first: Regehr’s contract with the Los Angeles Kings expired following the 2014-15 season, so he didn’t necessarily need to file papers with the league to terminate his active NHL participation. He could just wander the world as an unrestricted free agent. And yes, he declared his intention to retire following last season and subsequently moved to Calgary with his family and began playing beer league hockey. (And a bunch of stories came out subsequently about him being retired.) So it’s likely, though not guaranteed, that he filed his retirement papers last summer. Fundamentally-speaking, though, that doesn’t really matter, because I don’t believe the Los Angeles Kings had a press conference for Regehr (they were a bit busy dealing with other off-ice concerns this summer), and he spent far more time with the Flames anyway. The effect of Monday’s press conference may merely be ceremonial, but it’s still nice to see.
My expectation is that the renewed association between Regehr and the Flames will lead to some manner of relationship going forward. I’m not sure to what extent, but Monday’s press conference includes Regehr, Ken King, Brian Burke, Brad Treliving and Craig Conroy. The presence of such luminaries suggests that this is a fairly big deal organizationally, as otherwise there (a) wouldn’t be a press conference and (b) if there was, the entire hockey ops department wouldn’t be there.
Since it’s being treated like a big deal, I think it’s probably reasonable to wonder if this is going to lead to Regehr being honoured by the organization for his tenure. They probably should, for a few reasons.
- Regehr made the Flames roster as a 19-year-old rookie after breaking both of his freaking legs in a July 1999 car accident (just a few months after being acquired for then-all-time leading scorer Theoren Fleury). The two-week rehabilitation stint he spent in Saint John was the only time he spent in the AHL during a 15-year professional career. (Despite this accomplishment, Ken Daneyko won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication for reasons that escape me.) Given the struggles we’ve seen from young blueliners in the past that had success at other levels, it’s pretty impressive that Regehr could play regular NHL minutes because playing in the NHL is really tough.
- Much like Mark Giordano now, Regehr was huge in helping set the tone for the Flames during his tenure on the blueline. He wasn’t a huge puck-mover and his skills were probably best-suited for the “dead puck” era that preceded the 2004-05 lockout – and by the time we hit the “new NHL” era of play, he already had a ton of wear and tear on his body so we never really got a good idea of what he could do in that style of game. That said, he was an effective game-manager – he rarely tried to do too much – and he was by all accounts a respectable off-ice presence. (I believe he was the team’s NHLPA player representative while he was in Calgary, as well as a long-time alternate captain, which both probably speak to how respected he was within the locker room.)
- He’s second in franchise history in games played in a Flames uniform, behind only that “Jarome Iginla” fella we keep hearing so much about. Regehr was acquired in a trade by Al Coates and lasted with the organization through the tenures of Craig Button and Darryl Sutter before being traded away by Jay Feaster shortly after his arrival. You don’t survive that many different general managers (and that many different coaches) without being at least a half-decent NHL player. And frankly, I’m impressed that he was able to play over 1,000 games in the NHL given his physical playing style.
- Along with Miikka Kiprusoff and Iginla, Regehr was arguably one of the three or four players that played the biggest part in Calgary’s 2004 march to the Stanley Cup Final. While the 1986 and 1989 teams were products of years and years of roster tinkering by Cliff Fletcher to create a team that could go toe-to-toe with the other mid-’80s powerhouses, the 2004 Flames succeeded because of hot goaltending and a strict adherence to a staunch defensive style of play. A good deal of that style of play involved what amounted to trench warfare, with Regehr (and a few others) taking the proverbial pound of flesh from anybody that got too close to the net. It was a physically-taxing system, particularly on the defenders, and it probably took a year or two off of his career on the back-end of it. But it also got the team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
When you take it all in, Regehr had a heck of a tenure in the NHL and a heck of a tenure with the Calgary Flames. If they’re planning on eventually raising a Forever A Flame banner up to the rafters for Regehr (or whatever it is they do to honour players these days), then I’m all for it. And if they’re not, given his contributions to the team over his 800-game tenure, they really should be.