SUN Hockey Pool

Good genetics

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

The glisten from the golden hard hat was nothing compared to the shine from Richie Regehr's smile.

His first NHL game was in the books.

His first NHL point, an assist on the game-winning goal that was originally credited his way but changed after the final buzzer, was in the annals.

His greatest day coming to a close.

"It's pretty special," said the Calgary Flames defenceman after last night's 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. "I can't put it into words.

"It was something."

The elation he was experiencing last night makes those long days back in the spring and summer of 2004 seem an eternity ago.

At the time, Regehr was prepared to start a new phase in his life. At 21 and finished his junior days, he was ready to turn the page on hockey.

The NHL dream was all but dead -- undrafted after five WHL seasons.

"I was all ready to go to the U of A," he recalled. "Actually, I was enrolled when I got the call from Darryl to come to that summer camp."

Darryl -- as in Sutter, the Calgary Flames GM/head coach -- who helped create the major turning point in Regehr's life.

Regehr, nearly three years younger, three inches shorter and some 30 lb. lighter than his more famous brother Robyn -- the Flames rising star defenceman -- arrived for the summer camp with one last hope alongside a couple dozen draft choices and hopefuls.

He left the city July 6, 2004, with a pro contract, which started the path to the dream come true experienced last night at the Saddledome.

Sure, the road to the bigs wasn't easy, and there was no trip to a podium on draft day.

He had to earn a chance, make the most of it and keep improving to the point the Flames -- with defencemen Roman Hamrlik and Rhett Warrener on the shelf -- would make the call.

"Any way you make it is good enough for me," said the youngest of the Regehrs, who'll turn 23 next month.

Best of all for the Regehr family is the fact he was skating on the same ice and playing on the same team as Robyn -- the first time siblings have skated together in Flames history.

Robyn's pride in younger bro came through loud and clear.

"He battled," he said. "A lot of people -- scouts -- maybe expected to see a lot of what I brought when they'd see him but Richie is a totally different player than I am. He has different skills and had to prove to people he could do it."

While Robyn is known for his physical presence, Richie is more of a slick-skating puck mover with a strong powerplay abilities.

"The depth of our organization at the time, there was a tremendous shortage of young defencemen that could move the puck," Sutter said. "(Mark) Giordano was a lefty and Regehr was a righty that could fill the bill."

A full season in the minors, the 2004-05 campaign in which he netted nine goals and 25 points, gave proof his game could translate to the pro ranks.

"I think when I started to really believe I could make the NHL was when I had a good year in Lowell," he said. "That's when I realized it was possible."

And now, a reality.

"This beats U of A any day of the week," he said, that smile bright as the sun. "Beats it any day of the year."


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