Anyone that has been to an AHL hockey game in the northeast either last season or this season has probably noticed Bobby Robins of the Providence Bruins. On the ice, he has made a name for himself as a fighter. Throughout his career, he has always been a tough player. He has prided himself on being the kind of player that other teams would not like to have to play against. But, he has been so much more than just a hockey player. The Pink Puck was lucky enough to catch up with Robins (@bobbyRRRobins) following a recent Providence Bruins practice.
In 2002, the almost twenty-one year old started at UMass-Lowell with their hockey team. He spent a full four seasons playing college hockey and worked towards a journalism degree. While he was a tough player in college, fighting was not really a part of college hockey. In 2006, after finishing his final season of college hockey, he signed with the Ottawa Senators and reported to their AHL team in Binghamton. His first professional fight came before that season ended. He wanted to continue to play the physical game he had played in college.
“I always played a pretty physical game. I wanted to look to finish my checks first. That’s how I played all through college. Once you hit the pro ranks, if you’re going to play like that, then you have to back it up. Usually after a really big hit, you’re going to see a fight,” Robins said. You either make the decision to change the way you play or you handle the business that comes after a hit.”
When it came to that decision, it was clear to Robins what he had to do. He had learned to play the game a certain way. Now that he was going to be playing professionally, he was prepared to take some punches and hopefully land a few himself in the process. Having always been a hockey player, it was not something he was used to. He was willing to fight but he did not have any experience doing so. It was something that he had to train for and continues to include in his offseason training.
“I did some MMA training with a couple good coaches. I learned striking and how to punch correctly. I had never really been trained how to punch before,” Robins said of the role he has come to embrace. “It’s a skill like anything else, like learning how to shoot accurately. It’s just a skill that I had to learn.”
During the 2007-2008 seasons, Robins spent the majority of his season in the ECHL with the Elmira Jackals. He also got the chance to play with three different AHL teams, but never more than a few games. It was a lot of moving around for him and he was having trouble sticking in the AHL. It was a little disheartening for a player who had always dreamed of making it all the way to the NHL. Instead of sticking around in ECHL and AHL, he opted to leave North American hockey behind temporarily.
For the 2008-2009 season, Robins decided to go overseas to play. That season, he played with the Belfast Giants of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom. The next season, Robins made the choice to remain in Europe and signed with HK Acroni Jesenice in the Austrian Hockey League. Although, he had decent seasons in Europe, it was not a permanent career choice. If he wanted to be serious about making a push for the NHL, he knew that he needed to be back in North America.
Robins had a cancer scare in 2010 and it changed everything in his life and his outlook. It was what motivated him to make the move to bring his career back to playing hockey in North America. That first season back in the US, he landed with the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors. The 2011-2012 season might have started in the ECHL for him, but it ended with the Providence Bruins. It was a great fit for both him and the organization, which led to him signing an AHL contract with the Bruins for the 2012-2013 season.
So far this season, Robins has registered 32 fights and 277 penalty minutes through 63 games. At 31 years old, these are the highest totals that he has had during his career. He has absolutely accomplished his goal to be a tough opponent for other teams to play against. Every team is aware of him coming into games. He is never afraid to stick up for one of his teammates. Robins even broke his nose not so long ago and returned that same game and have to add a cage to his helmet while he healed. That was not enough to stop him from removing his helmet, cage and all, to fight someone from an opposing team. He has been the embodiment of a tough player in the AHL. He still knows when to drop the gloves and when to hold back, though.
“Settling personal grudges has taken a back burner to just trying to play solid hockey for me. I’m trying to play my game and play physical when it’s needed. I feel like I can offer a lot more to the team than just the one dimension of a fighter,” Robins said as the regular season winds down. “I try to focus on being a hard guy to play against and relentless on the forecheck. I really try to chase the puck down and make the game difficult on the defensemen by finishing checks and getting the puck by them. I want the team to be aware when I’m out there.”
But, Bobby Robins is so much more than just a fighter and a hockey player. Every day, he strives to inspire people to be the best that they can be. You can read all about him and his journey, both on and off the ice, on his website (www.bobbyrobins.com). The site is something that he started because he had always been passionate about writing and figured that it would be the perfect outlet. The site gives fans a rare chance to get to know a player better with both his professional and personal lives. It is not just about a hockey player, it is about a person that wants others to believe they are capable of accomplishing what they set their minds on. It is about believing you are capable of anything and that you cannot just sit around wishing for something. If you want to do something, you have to just take the leap and do it.
“I had always wanted to be a writer. I studied writing in school and it was almost like I was putting it off. Finally over the summer, I decided I could do both play hockey and write. I started to blog to hold myself accountable but also to get my work out there. I want to spread positivity into the world.”
More than just wanting an outlet to write, Robins has been through some experiences that he feels responsible to share. Prior to his cancer scare in 2010, he had a serious nicotine addiction and overused chewing tobacco. He was able to give it up and move past something that was really holding him back. It was not just about getting over an addiction, it was about making a big change in his life. It is something he feels that everyone can relate to because it can be hard to overcome obstacles in your life. Spreading his story and his positive outlook is what he feels like he’s supposed to do now. It feels natural for him. He talks about the feeling that once you get over that hurdle in your life, you can do anything. You can see it on the ice in the way he has recommitted to hockey.
“The single fact of quitting tobacco changed everything in my life. By overcoming that obstacle, my biggest demon, my life took a completely different trajectory and it’s been all for the better in every way, personal and professional,” Robins said. “If I can change one person’s life or their view on things and get them to make a positive change in their life, that’s satisfying for me.”
In terms of a team, Robins could not be happier than he is now. The Providence Bruins have heated up at exactly the right time and are currently atop their division as the season winds down. The playoffs seem to be well within reach for the baby Bruins and that is all that this particular player is concerned about now. He is not thinking past this season and is only focused on helping his team chase the elusive Calder Cup. Even when not fighting, he still contributes to his team and makes his presence known. He is always sure to finish all of his checks and break up any plays he can. He is a dedicated athlete; at a recent practice, he was one of the last players to leave the ice as he continued to work. It will be interesting to see where his career takes his next.
Photo credit: Samantha Boice