With the NHL lockout lasting at least another month after the cancellation of games through November 30, more and more players are flocking oversees to play in the numerous European leagues such as the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the Swedish Elite League (SEL) or the SM-Liiga in Finland. We all know NHL players usually come from Nordic countries such as Canada, Russia, the United States of America, Swedish, Finland and the Czech Republic, among others. But what about players born in exotic countries where snow is almost non-existent and hockey is more of an afterthought rather than a national sport?
Below you will find a list of former and current players who were born in bizarre and unexpected places:
12. Grahame Townshend, Kingston, Jamaica.
The former right-winger was born in Jamaica before his family emigrated to Toronto, Canada. Townshend played 45 games in the NHL for the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators between 1990 and 1994.
11. Rumun Ndur, Zaria, Nigeria.
The former NHL tough guy was born in Nigeria before moving to Union, Ontario. The gritty defenseman played 69 games in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers and the Atlanta Thrashers in the late 1990s. Ndur last played professional hockey for the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL in 2008-09.
10. Chris Nielsen, Moshi, Tanzania.
Nielsen was born in Tanzania while his Canadian father was stationed there working as a diplomat before his parents moved back to Canada when he was three. Nielsen, who played 52 NHL games for the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2000 to 2002, recorded 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points during his short career. The town of Moshi is located at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro.
9. Ed Hatoum, Beirut, Lebanon.
Hatoum was born in Lebanon’s capital in 1947 and emigrated with his family to Ottawa, Canada, ten years later. He played 47 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks between 1968 and 1971 before spending the rest of his hockey career in the minors until he retired in 1976.
8. Claude Vilgrain, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Vilgrain was the first and likely the last player to be born on the island of Haiti and to make it to the NHL. Vilgrain moved near Quebec City when he was only three-month old with his family before playing his junior hockey for the Laval Voisin of the QMJHL. Vilgrain made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks, before playing his full and only successful NHL season with the New Jersey Devils in 1991-92 during which he dressed for 71 games and recording 46 points. Vilgrain also played for the Philadelphia Flyers before heading to Europe.
7. Craig Adams, Seria, Brunei.
Born in Brunei while his father was on a business trip with Shell Oil, the current Pittsburgh Penguins center has played 735 games during his twelve-year career in the NHL with the Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes. Adams won two Stanley Cups, one with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and one with the Penguins in 2009.
6. Willi Plett, Ascuncion, Paraguay.
5. Rick Chartraw, Caracas, Venezuela.
A defensive defensemn, Chartraw was born in Venezuela when his dad worked there as an engineer in 1954. The family moved to Pennsylvania when he was three, before he headed to Canada to play his junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers. Between 1974 and 1984, he played 420 NHL games for the Montreal Canadiens, the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Rangers, and the Edmonton Oilers.
4. Richard Park, Seoul, South Korea.
After being born in South Korea, Park and his family moved to the USA near Los Angeles when he was three years of age. At the age of thirteen, he moved to Toronto, Canada, where he played his minor hockey. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1994, Park played for several NHL teams (Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders) before making his second stint with the team that drafted him in 2011-12. Park is currently playing for Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss-A league.
3. Robyn Regehr, Recife, Brazil; and Richie Regehr, Bandung, Indonesia.
The Regehr brothers were born to Mennonite missionary parents. Robyn lived in Brazil for the first three years of his life before moving to Indonesia, where his younger brother Richie was born. The Regehr family moved back to Canada a few years later. Currently a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Regehr has played 903 games in the NHL with the Sabres and the Calgary Flames, while his brother Richie dressed for 20 games with the Flames in 2005-06 and 2006-07. The younger Regehr is currently playing for Eisbären Berlin of the Deutsch Elite League (DEL).
2. Olaf Kolzig, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The long-time Washington Capitals goalie was born to German parents in South Africa’s biggest city, but spent his teenagers years in Canada. With the exception of eight games with the Tampa Bay Lightning (during his last season), “Ollie the Goalie” played his entire 14 year career with the Capitals, winning 303 games in 719 contests.
1. Rod Langway, Taipei, Taiwan.
Langway was born in Taipei, when his American father was stationed in Taiwan in 1957. Langway, who played 994 games in the NHL with the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens is the only player ever born in the People’s Republic of China, a country of over 1.3 billion people. What is ever more exceptional is that the hall-of-famer who grew up in Massachussetts, only began playing hockey at the age of 13.
Other notable players: Jim Paek, South Korea; Ryan O’Marra, Japan; Andre Deveaux, Bahamas, Mike Greenlay, Brazil
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A long-time Joe Sakic fan, Fred, 35, is a freelance sports writer and translator. Fred earned a Bachelor of Translation in 2002 at Laval University in Quebec City. He also writes on the Montreal Canadiens for HabsAddict.com and he is an associate editor and a baseball columnist on Dobberbaseball.com. He is also fluent in English, French and Spanish.