As reported in the Providence Journal, longtime Providence Bruin and short-lived Boston Bruin Bobby Robins has retired from hockey. The 33-year-old and UMass-Lowell hockey product only played 3 games this past season for the Boston Bruins in hopes that he may fill the enforcer and energy role left empty by the departing Shawn Thornton. He was somewhat of a Cinderalla/inspriational story. Robins had finally made it to the NHL after years in the minors and was a rookie at 32. Yet the fighting that gave him his shot in the show is what ultimately ended the dream.
Robins got in a fight with Luke Schenn (pictured above) of the Philadelphia Flyers and was concussed. For a player who amassed 833 penalty minutes in the AHL over roughly 9 seasons getting in a fight was the norm. But after being stung by Schenn Robins admits in the Providence Journal article he knew he was concussed. And he was never the same. After being sent back down to Providence and playing only 2 more games in the AHL the effects of the concussion from the fight were too much to ignore and Robins hung the skates up for good.
Concussions is a topic that has been on the front page of the NHL news consistently over the last few years. Former Bruin Marc Savard, as we blogged about last week, was knocked out of the game from one of hockey history’s biggest cheap shots to the head. That hit sparked the debate and initiatives for more player safety. It’s something the league became genuinely concerned about and looked to help curb.
Fighting in hockey has also taken a dip in frequency since emphasis has been put on protecting players heads. According to hockeyfights.com last season the NHL averaged 0.32 fights per game, only 26% of games had a single fight, only 45 games had more than one fight. If you just go back to the 2008-2009 season, the season before Savard was concussed and raised league-wide awareness, the NHL averaged 0.60 fights per game. 41% of games had fights, and 173 games had multiple fights. Essentially fighting has been cut nearly in half in efforts to keep players safe.
Bobby Robins made the right decision by stepping away from professional hockey before really jeopardizing his health. And as short as it was, he lived a dream of playing in the NHL by protecting his teammates admirably all those years. But as the league is making a transition and leading the way in all pro sports to make players safer, players still have to identify when the risk is too great. It’s only fitting that a smart and beloved player like Bobby Robins would also lead the way in thinking of his long-term health and family first. He certainly will be missed in the Providence and Boston organizations.