by Joe Tasca on 11/05/12 at 08:00 AM ET
As hard as it may be to believe, some of the most insightful and articulate hockey players are fighters.
I've interviewed countless tough guys over the years. The conversations are often quite lengthy, and by far the most memorable. Getting to know these players has given me an incredible appreciation for what they do, and the challenges they face on and off the ice.
Anyone who's had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Robins can attest not only to his intelligence, but his amicability. A 31-year-old journeyman, Robins decided to take up fighting two years ago after a brief stint in Europe. His pugilistic skills in the ECHL earned him a promotion to the AHL last December. Robins took advantage, fighting a remarkable 20 times in the second half of the season with Providence. He's kept up his torrid pace this year, dropping the gloves five times in eight games.
A few weeks ago, Robins wrote about a discussion he had with his fiancee last summer regarding whether he should continue fighting, particularly in light of recent studies documenting the long-term effects of concussions:
In the end, I decided that I had come so far, from some kid in the middle of the north woods in Wisconsin, to being so close to the NHL. I decided that this is what I was supposed to be doing. It's what feels right to me now at this point in my life. I concluded that I have the warrior spirit inside of me, and I must do what I set out to do and chase this dream down, and hope that I am protected and watched over by some greater force that is beyond my control.
With that said, I also know that if the time ever comes that my body and brain are telling me to stop doing this, I will have the strength to walk away and pursue something else. If I ever take some serious damage to my head, I will know it is time to stop all of this. With that said, I try and fight smart, and I'm not one of the guys who will stand there and trade punch for punch. I don't like getting punched in the head. So I try and avoid it and always be moving in my fights.
It comes down to a personal decision for me. This is something that I want to be doing. It is exciting, and I feel so alive every time I take the ice, knowing that I am going into a battle. It's what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm made for it. I'm built for this stuff. I know this won't last forever, and I'm trying to be as safe as I can while I'm doing it so that my life after hockey is a healthy one.
Robins also addressed how mentally difficult it can be for a tough guy to handle his role:
Everything about fighting is scary. I'm scared before every fight, and I'm scared the night before when I think about who I may have to fight. In the past, I let this fear control me, and as a result, I didn't fight very often, and didn't utilize all of my assets as a hockey player. I always played hard and aggressive, and intimidated my opponents on the forecheck and with my intensity, but without that fighting aspect, I was always missing a vital piece of the puzzle.
When I came back to North America to play, I made a conscious decision to fight. You can either wave a flag that says you are open to fights or you are not open to fights. I started flying my fight flag, and tested my courage by fighting anyone I could on the ice.
That was always the biggest obstacle for me. I had to face my fear to fight. Once the gloves were off, it was all instinct.
Regardless of whether you agree with fighting, Robins does a great job of explaining why he drops the gloves for a living. More importantly, his detailed blog goes a long way towards dispelling the ridiculous notion that tough guys are nothing more than neanderthals on skates.
For the record, Robins is a pretty damn good hockey player. Just yesterday, he tallied a goal and an assist, earning first star honors in the process.
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About Tasca's Take
Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.
Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.