June 28, 2015

Doug Rombough

Whether it was while he played junior hockey with the OHL Black Hawks or as the founder of one of the most popular restaurants in town, Doug Rombough was always popular in St. Catherines, Ontario.

Rombough was a big kid - 6'3" and played at over 200 pounds - out of St. Catharines, Ontario, just few minutes across the Canadian border from Buffalo. Some speculated that the reason why the Sabres chose the big center with the 97th overall and second last draft pick of their inaugural year of 1970 was because he played in St. Catharines and the Sabres wanted to entice Canadian fans to cross the border for a night's worth of NHL excitement.

Given his late round draft status, it is doubtful that Sabres ever expected a whole lot out of Doug, at least at the NHL level. He was huge but didn't play overly aggressively, and was not an overly mobile skater. He never posted any significant numbers while in junior. His career bests at that level were just 14 goals and 27 points.

Rombough, however, seemed to be a late bloomer. He reported to the minor league Flint Generals in 1970-71 and impressed with a 22 goal and 58 point season in 76 games, and followed that up with a strong playoff.

The Sabres promoted Doug to their chief farm affiliated in Cincinnati of the American Hockey League in 1971-72. Doug fit in nicely scoring 22 goals and 48 points. Again he had a strong playoff, scoring 4 goals and 8 points in 10 playoff games.

Doug's breakout year was in 1972-73, also with the Swords of Cincinnati. Doug had a really strong regular season, scoring 28 goals and 71 points in 66 games - far exceeding any expectations the Sabres had when he was draft just 3 years earlier. Doug was rewarded with a 5 game call up to Buffalo and scored his first two NHL goals. Doug was returned to the AHL however and kept up his reputation as a playoff standout. He and teammate John Gould shared entire league lead in goal scoring with 10 in 14 games as the Swords captured the Calder Cup as the American Hockey League champions! That team also featured future Sabres Rick Dudley and Bill Hajt.

Coming off of such a fine season, Doug continued his hard work through training camp in 1973 and forced the Sabres to keep him at the NHL level. Unfortunately for him the Sabres at the time were quickly emerging as a young and talented team. Doug had trouble finding quality ice time and scored just 6 goals and 15 points in 46 games.

The Sabres were looking for some additional grit and in a trade sacrificed Rombough's promise to land Brian "Spinner" Spencer's physical presence. Doug finished the year with the New York Islanders by scoring 3 goals and 4 points in 12 games.

Doug found himself in a similar position in Long Island as he was in upper New York state. The Isles were also emerging as a talented team, and Doug didn't play nearly as physically as coaches wanted a player of his size to play. As a result he was again moved in a trade. On January 5, 1975 Doug was traded to the Minnesota North Stars with Ernie Hicke for Jean-Paul Parise. Doug finished the year with a total of 11 goals and 26 points in 68 NHL games.

Doug started the 1975-76 season with the North Stars but after just 2 goals and 4 points in 19 games, he found himself demoted to the minor leagues where he continued to struggle, scoring just 5 goals in 42 games.

Doug quietly rounded out his career by playing two seasons with the Central Hockey League's Dallas Black Hawks in 1976-77 and Fort Worth Texans in 1977-78.

In 150 NHL games Doug played in 150 NHL games, scoring 24 goals and 51 points. Had he found more ice time perhaps he would have had a more successful stint in the NHL.

After hockey Rombough founded the bar-eatery Romby's in St. Catherines, Ontario, a popular tavern known for live music. He especially enjoyed hosting the many kids sports teams that he sponsored.

"He was a very well-liked guy," Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, a junior teammate of Rombough's, said. "If anything his legacy is (not just hockey) it's owning Romby's — more people remember that place."

He later sold the business, though the restaurant remains under new ownership.

Rombough moved to Dallas, Texas, then Denver, Colorado and finally Plantation, Florida, working in real estate. He passed away at his Florida home on June 20th, 2015. He was 64 years old.

No comments: