July 20, 2015

Bobby Robins

Bobby Robins was a minor league tough guy extraordinaire. After a decade fighting everywhere from Binghampton and Bakersfield to Northern Ireland and Slovenia, he finally got making it to the NHL in 2014-15. Sadly it would be the final games of his career.

Bobby Robins was born in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and went on to play on a hockey scholarship at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He graduated with a degree in English, and, as his fans know, his love of poetry seemingly betrays his tough guy image.

No NHL team ever drafted Robins, but the Ottawa Senators signed him in the summer of 2006. He turned pro in the Sens farm system, starting a 10 year globe-trotting career where he was very popular everywhere he played.

Never more so than in Providence, Rhode Island, farm team home of the Boston Bruins' affiliate. Robins joined with the Bruins organization back in 2011 and played 177 games with the P-Bruins.

Robins finally made the Bruins roster out of training camp in 2014 as they were set to give him an extended fourth line audition as a replacement for departed tough guy Shawn Thornton.

In Robins' three NHL games with the Boston Bruins he picked up 14 minutes in penalties, including five minute fighting majors against Philadelphia's Luke Schenn and Washington's Michael Latta. He would suffer a concussion in the Schenn fight, but he hid it to keep his NHL dream alive. It cost him the rest of the season, and ultimately his career.

Robins, noted as a very articulate interview off the ice, reflected upon the injury at the NHL level.

"After that first game, looking back, obviously I should have said something and sat out, but I would have literally played through anything at that point… I was almost in denial, thinking it would go away, and it never did.

“I’m pretty sure it happened in the fight with Schenn. I kind of felt like I got my bell rung or got dinged in the head — in my line of work it happens more often than not. That’s just kind of how I felt. I got right on the plane (after the game) and went to Detroit thinking it would go away in the morning, like it always had. Then that morning when I woke up in Detroit, it was still there. I was like, oh man, but I would have played right to the death," Robins said in an interview with Mark Divver of the Providence Journal.

Robins played through the Detroit and Washington games before being returned to the minors. He played only two games with the Providence Bruins that season, as the concussion forced him off the ice.

After making a career out of being punched in the head, Robins knew it was time to leave the ice.

“Hockey is what I know. It’s what I do. But after getting my head banged up like that, it was -- no pun intended -- a no-brainer for me...I couldn’t do it anymore," he said of the fighting. " After the lowest points that I experienced, to where I am now, where I feel like myself again, there was no way I was ever going to risk getting hit in the head again or going through that again,’’

"I'm a free agent in life," the 33 year old Robins said, having come to peace with his decision. "One chapter ended — not the way I expected it to end. But I think everything that happens, there’s a bigger picture going on. In the end, it made me stronger and I found out a lot about myself, not just as a hockey player but as a human being.”

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