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Date: Jul 20, 2018
Local standout drafted by the Red Wings
DETROIT — Growing up, Alec Regula routinely found himself at Joe Louis Arena.
Regula’s father, Chet, served as the official dentist for the Detroit Red Wings for three decades. This allowed Regula to spend countless weekends at the historic old barn, meeting many of his childhood heroes who donned the winged wheel.
A native of West Bloomfield, Regula slipped on the same familiar red sweater June 23 as he was selected by his hometown team in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft.
“Being picked in the NHL is unbelievable, but to get picked by my hometown team is just crazy,” Regula said during the team’s development camp June 29. “It magnifies it being a team my family has a history with. It makes it that much more special.”
Now 17, Regula’s earliest memory of his new employer is a decade prior. In the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, Detroit faced Pittsburgh. While the Wings won in six games, Game 5 featured a memorable triple-overtime affair at the Joe, with the Penguins prevailing.
“I was 7 or 8, but I definitely remember the Joe’s amazing atmosphere,” Regula recalled. “I was so young and would never stay up that late. I was falling asleep, and people around us were taking pictures because it was such a big game, and I was in these great seats snoring away.”
A 6-foot-4-inch, 203-pound defenseman, Regula aspires to be like a famed Detroit blue-liner.
“Nick Lidstrom is probably my favorite player all the way through. I got to meet him a bunch of times, which was incredible,” Regula said. “(Former Detroit and current New York Islanders forward) Valtteri Filppula was another one of my favorite players that I got to know. (Las Vegas Golden Knights defenseman) Colin Miller is someone I try to model my game after. He’s a big right-shot defenseman and moves the puck well.”
Regula’s journey on the ice began with Honeybaked Ham, a bantam club based in Hazel Park. However, he took a detour that most top prospects shy away from, opting to play for his high school.
Attending Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood since kindergarten, Regula suited up for the Cranes for two years. Considered a crucial time in the progression of a potential draftee, many players choose to play junior hockey against fellow elite skaters.
“Cranbrook has a really special place in my heart. They have unbelievable people and teachers there, and great kids. I loved it there,” Regula said. “But I honestly never thought about playing hockey there up until the end of middle school. The opportunity presented itself and stuff wasn’t really working on my triple-A team. So I joined the team at CK.”
In 54 games as a freshman and sophomore, Regula totaled six goals and 25 assists. He was able to play with his older brother, C.J., and help lead the group to a state title in 2015.
“Getting to play with my brother was really special. We had a really, really good team my freshman year and won the state championship. That is one of my all-time favorite memories,” Regula remarked. “We worked really hard for that. The year after, it kind of became my team. I was the No. 1 defenseman, and I played a lot. We lost in overtime of the state semis. That was rough, but I have no complaints. It was really awesome to get to play for my school.”
Andy Weidenbach has served as the coach of the Cranbrook hockey team for 26 years.
“When we first saw (Regula) skate, our staff could tell he had a lot of potential and upside,” Weidenbach recalled. “The skill was there and he had a high hockey IQ. He just lacked confidence. When he came to our program, we played him in all situations, and you could see him gain that confidence and just get better and better.”
Weidenbach called Regula a key member of the state title squad while quickly showcasing what he could do at the next level.
“By the end of his sophomore year, he was our best player,” Weidenbach said. “He’s one of the top defensemen we’ve ever had here for sure, and we’ve had some good ones. Alec may even exceed what some of our top guys have done. Time will tell where he’ll end up, but he certainly has the potential to do great things. It’s going to be an exciting journey for him, and we wish him well.”
The longtime coach said he was overjoyed to see his former player have a chance to become a professional just down the road.
“I’m not surprised at all that he’s doing as well as he is. All he needed was an opportunity to play and develop, and Cranbrook was a good match and he did a great job,” Weidenbach said. “As he develops, I think he has a real chance to play for the Red Wings someday. I can’t even imagine how his family feels. To grow up here and see the success of the Wings and then get a chance to be a part of that must be a real thrill. We’re really happy for him, and it’s a credit to how hard he’s worked. He earned it.”
Regula credited Weidenbach for aiding him in a pivotal moment of his youth hockey career.
“(Weidenbach) has been around for awhile and knows his stuff. He worked with me so much, and it really helped a lot,” Regula said. “Cranbrook prepared me well because I was able to play against older guys. With Honeybaked, I was playing against my age group all the way through. At Cranbrook, I was playing against 18-year-old seniors when I was only 14, and that really helped.”
His success with the Cranes caught the eye of scouts. He was drafted 22nd overall by the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League in 2016 while also be taken 74th overall by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in the same year.
Regula played 53 games for the Steel, recording a goal and four assists while helping the club win the Clark Cup — the league’s championship. He then went to Canada to play for the Knights, tallying seven goals and 18 assists in 67 games while being named OHL First Team All-Rookie.
Playing in the Windy City and across the border forced Regula to leave Cranbrook and finish high school online. The NHL has a rule, which dictates that players must return to their OHL club for two seasons if they do not make the NHL roster initially after the draft. Therefore, Regula could spend two years developing with the Knights rather than playing with Detroit’s minor league affiliates in Toledo or Grand Rapids.
“I consider myself pretty lucky to get that call from the Steel. That really got the ball rolling,” Regula said. “I was able to do well with them and the Knights. That’s where I plan on being the next two years, but you never know. I think I’m on a really good trajectory and hope to surprise some people.”
From June 26 to June 30, Regula participated in Detroit’s development camp, practicing and scrimmaging with the team’s top picks and prospects at the Belfor Training Center inside Little Caesars Arena.
“You see the type of pace at this level, and it makes you work that much harder,” Regula said. “You can see the quality prospects and how you have to work and improve to make it.”
Additionally, Regula has been working out at 2SP Sports Performance in Madison Heights. He credited the facility’s strength and conditioning coach Joe Neal and the opportunity to play with potential future teammates as major aspects of his development.
“I started really working hard there this summer. Guys like Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser and Luke Witkowski all skate there,” Regula said. “They knew I was preparing for the draft, and it was great to see their work ethic up close. (Neal) has helped me take a lot of steps with my body.”
While other prospects hail from all over the globe, Regula used a free evening to drive home to the house he grew up in and visit friends and family.
“I had the luxury to go home for a little bit and just see a lot of people that mean a lot to me,” Regula said. “Right after the draft, people we’re going crazy. It makes it that much crazier to come back to my hometown. I would come down here all the time. Being in Detroit is great; they put us up in the Renaissance Center. Growing up, this wasn’t the best city, but now it’s bouncing back. It’s really exciting to see that and hopefully be a part of it.”