By Monika Moravan
Travel back in time to Denmark in 1009 A.D. and you’ll notice the rocky harbors stocked with Viking longships, merchant vessels carrying goods from the known world and young men eager to challenge their skills across the perilous seas.
Flash forward a thousand years and you’ll notice a growing number of Danes sporting hockey – rather than horned – helmets. While the treacherous challenges of sea travel are a thing of the past, the Viking knack for seeking new opportunities flows through Denmark’s modern-day hockey players, just ask center Peter Regin of the Ottawa Senators.
Regin, a native of Herning, a city of around 45,000 in central Denmark, learned early that if he wanted to take his hockey career to the next level he would have to leave home and face better competition.
“The level of play is not that good,” said Regin of Danish hockey. “All the Canadian guys are used to watching the NHL while growing up and they know what they have to do to get here – we didn’t know that.”
After he came to the realization he was going to have to move away from home as a youngster, the next big decision was figuring out what the best option was. The St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario League drafted the Dane 52nd overall in the 2004 CHL import draft and did their best to encourage him to cross the ocean.
“I met the (Majors) coach at the airport in Boston, thought about it, but felt I was too young,” Regin said. “I was only 17 and didn’t feel that was the right thing for me. Guys over here (in North America) move when they’re 15 or 16 to play junior. I was lucky to stay home until I was 18 when I had to leave Denmark to keep developing so that’s why I moved to Sweden.”
The Senators drafted Regin in the third round, 87th overall, in the 2004 NHL draft, which further enticed him to make a professional move. Starting in 2005, Regin suited up for Timra of the Swedish Elite League where he would ply is craft for three years. His point totals rose each year, from 11, to 16, to 31, prompting the Senators to bring Regin to North America to hone his skills in the American League.
“I came over, got hurt right away and was out for a while,” Regin explained. “I came back and had to get used to the game; I wasn’t too good in the beginning, but felt I could play at that level, be one of the good players.”
A big reason for his confidence, which helped get him through the tough early going in the AHL, was the experience Regin gained from the three years of professional hockey he played in Sweden. Though the two styles are very different, Regin had come to understand the ebbs and flows of playing a professional season and learned the kinks will work themselves out if you trust your skills.
“I came from Sweden, which is a better league,” he declared. “The AHL is more similar to the NHL, obviously, and it’s a good league if you want to develop into the NHL, but I think the Swedish league is better. I came from a level that was at least as good as the AHL so I knew I could play there. It was just a matter of time to get used to it and get back from the injury.”
Last year, in his first AHL season, Regin finished with 18 goals and 47 points in 56 games and was even called up for 11 games with the big club, tallying two points.
This season, Regin is a full-time NHLer and continues to glow with confidence, evidenced by his two goals and four points in nine games.
It’s been a long journey from Denmark to the NHL for Regin – a kid who was once cut off from watching the NHL – except for the odd game. But Regin followed the box scores and monitored the stats of his heroes in North America.
So now that he’s here, it’s kind of a surreal experience for the 23-year-old.
“Some of the older guys, like Kovy (Alex Kovalev) and Alfie (Daniel Alfredsson), I have those guys on hockey cards from when I was a kid, so that’s funny,” Regin said with a big smile. “I still can’t believe it sometimes when I’m on the power play with Kovalev.”