In sports, trades are inevitable. There is a good chance your favourite player on your favourite team will one day play for another team. But what happens when a player plays for different country? Pride and glory for one nation, heartbreak for another. There are few pains greater than seeing the wrong flag draped over your hero’s shoulders.
National pride is something that can dominate the hockey media world in advance of major international tournaments like the Olympic Games or the World Cup of Hockey. Recently, due to the NHL’s refusal to do anything good for hockey fans around the world, many notable NHL players have spoken up about their disappointment of not getting the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea including Connor McDavid and Drew Doughty. Team Canada, with its rich history of international triumph in hockey, boasts an all-time roster that features some of the greatest to ever play the game including Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Jarome Iginla. Little did we know, however, that some of the greatest players who played for Canada and other countries in events around the world were not even born in the country they represented. We present to you: the Top 5 NHL Imposters, those players who brought pride and glory to one country, while leaving their birthplace in the dust.
Each imposter has been given an “Imposter Rating,” which is calculated using a very arbitrary mathematical model that accounts for the obscurity of their birthplace as a hockey powerhouse, their awards and accolades over their career, and their contribution to international success of another country. Here we go.
5. Craig Adams | Canada | Seria, Brunei
Craig Adams was never quite good enough to represent Canada in international play, but he gets a spot since he was born in Seria, Brunei, which was so obscure it nearly broke our model. Adams was born in 1977, where he was one of 175 000 people residing in Brunei at the time. He was raised in Calgary, and started on his hockey path playing for the community of Lake Bonavista. He may not have many notable international accomplishments, but he is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, suiting up for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 (we still love you for this Carolina) and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Adams also won the Italian League championship during the lockout in 2005 where he played for the Milano Vipers. His most impressive individual accomplishment was finishing tied with Los Angeles King’s captain Dustin Brown for 51st for the 2011 Selke award with 2 total votes. After a 14 year career, Adams announced his retirement in 2016. Again, a reminder that he was born in Seria, Brunei.
Imposter Rating: 5
4. Olaf Kölzig | Germany | Johannesburg, South Africa
Olaf Kölzig is best known for his NHL accomplishments as a member of the Washington Capitals. Also playing 8 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Kölzig spent 16 seasons in NHL, played 719 games, registered 301 wins, scored 17 points (all assists), and forced teammates to spend 107 minutes in the penalty box. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kölzig was the first African born player in the NHL. He represented Germany on the international stage on six occasions including the Olympic Games in 1998 and 2006, and the World Cup of Hockey in 2004. His accomplishments with the German national team are few and far between, but his NHL accomplishments definitely make up that gap. Kölzig was a two-time NHL all-star, won the Vezina Trophy in 2000, and won the King Clancy in 2006. He also possesses two of the greatest nicknames of all time in Olie the Goalie and Godzilla (the latter partially because he once had a vicious temper). The more you know.
Imposter Rating: 6
3. Robyn Regehr | Canada | Recife, Brazil
Fact: Robyn Regehr spent 11 of his 16 NHL seasons as a Calgary Flame. Also fact: Regehr was born in a city that’s a short 9969 km flight away from Calgary. We are certainly glad he took his talents as far north as he was comfortable with. Nobody really wanted to play for a team more north than Calgary during Regehr’s career, so he definitely made the right choice. While we know he was supposed to win his first Stanley Cup in 2004, he did reach the feat with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. In international play, Regehr represented Canada, with his highest honour being named to the 2006 Olympic roster, an Olympics we’d all rather forget. However, he amassed a silver medal in the 1999 World Juniors, a silver in the 2005 World Championship, and a gold during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. There is a 100% chance that Regehr would not have been as decorated if he decided to don the green and yellow of Brazil – unless he decided to compete in soccer or track instead.
Imposter Rating: 7.5
Fun fact: Robyn’s brother, Richie Regehr, was born in Bandung, Indonesia.
3. Dany Heatley | Canada | Freiburg, West Germany
It was a given that scoring 50 in ‘07 would earn Dany Heatley a spot on this list, albeit he was second to the Maurice Richard trophy winner Vincent Lecavalier, who scored two more goals. Heatley dominated international play when donning the Maple Leaf. Seriously, he dominated. As of the 2010 Olympics, he was Team Canada’s all-time leader in international goals and points. Heatley has won 4 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze medals for Canada in international play and holds multiple records for the Ottawa Senators and Atlanta Thrashers (RIP) franchises. In 1981, Heatley was born in Freiburg, West Germany. His father, Murray Heatley, was playing professional hockey there at the time. Dany spent his childhood in Calgary and has played for Canada ever since. Heatley’s once dominant career completely fell off a cliff in 2014 when he was playing for the Minnesota Wild.
He is better known by today’s youth through the parody twitter account. Heatley most recently played for the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers in – believe it or not – the German hockey league. Guess he felt bad.
Imposter Rating: 9
1. Rod Langway | USA | Taipei, Taiwan
Rod Langway laced up for his final NHL game on February 21, 1993. Bill Clinton had been the President of the United States for a whopping total of 32 days. This bold “American” truly deserves top spot on this list. Langway was born in 1957 when his father was stationed in Taipei, Taiwan as a serviceman. He is Taiwan’s all time leading NHL scorer in every single category, and is coincidentally the only NHL player to be born there. Langway won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1979, is a two-time Norris Trophy winner, six-time NHL all-star, and was runner up to some guy named Wayne Gretzky for the Hart Trophy in 1984. Internationally, he represented the United States in the 1982 World Championships, and three Canada Cups between 1981 and 1987. His #5 jersey has been retired by the Washington Capitals, and he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002. Langway still maintains a good relationship with the Capitals organization and took some selfies with fans in between naps on his way to Nashville last February. During his time in Washington, his nickname was “the franchise saver”. We all know the Capitals could use one of those now.
Imposter Rating: 9.5
Paul Stastny: A key cog in Team USA for many tournaments, he was actually born in Quebec City, Canada. Unfortunately, he took his talents south of the border and never looked back up.
Paul MacLean: MacLean, who represented Canada internationally, was actually born in Grostenquin, France. Unfortunately, he couldn’t crack this list despite the immense intangibles his moustache brings. However, we don’t care about intangibles. Sorry eh, Paul?
The NHL is filled with players who opt to play for a different country they were born in. Pride, glory, not having a hockey team in your home country… the list of reasons goes on. What’s important is that these players got to represent the sport we all love, and they did it with a country they were a part of. They got to do so because they wanted to. As it currently stands, in a few short months, there will be many players around the league yearning for international glory at the 2018 Olympics. Instead, they will have to continue with the NHL regular season. Hopefully we will see some changes in the league, but until then, one thing is certain: no one can actually point out Brunei on a map.