When you look at what Stephane Robidas
has accomplished throughout his career, it should not surprise anyone to learn he’s been nominated for this award before – three times before.
On Friday, Robidas was named the Leafs nominee for the Bill Masterton trophy.
Voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, the trophy is presented annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Last season, his dedication was put to the test when he broke his leg twice, causing the veteran defenceman to miss much of training camp this year, as he worked to be ready for opening night.
“I still have a passion for the game. I have the best job in the world,” said Robidas. “I enjoy going to the rink everyday, for practice, for games, pregame skate, all that stuff.”
The rigours of getting back to game shape took its toll on Robidas. He played 52 games this season before being shut down a month ago to have shoulder surgery.
While the surgery wasn’t mandatory at the time, the decision was calculated to ensure Robidas can come back with more time to prepare.
“For me, I’m already in the mode where I’m thinking about next year,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the summer to start skating again. That’s the toughest thing for me when being injured; it’s not being able to go on the ice.”
Robidas will be able to start skating around mid-June to early-July. It’s at that point where his conditioning will be up to the point where he can take part in a full Leafs training camp.
The Leafs are in the midst of setting up the building blocks for next season. It’s Robidas’ positivity and experience that led management to signing him to a three-year contract last summer.
“Robi is the ultimate pro,” said teammate James Reimer. “He’s a guy you can take a lot of good things from, given how long he’s been in the League and hopefully a lot of the young guys can see that and where they need to up their preparation for practices and games.”
“He’s a competitor, a leader, and when he came back, he did it the right way,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek of Robidas. “He never missed practice, he never took time off. He knew he had to at his age with an injury like that. You have to give a guy like that a lot of credit for working as hard as he did to get himself back into playing condition. It’s hard. Mentally it’s hard.”
Robidas doesn’t describe his leadership style as being very vocal. But he has let his opinion be known when it needs to be told. He leads by example.
So what’s left for Robidas?
At 937 games at the NHL level, the 1000-game milestone is on the horizon. Robidas has always taken his approach to the game on a day-to-day basis. But seeing teammate Eric Brewer get his silver stick not too long ago was hard for the veteran defenceman to not get caught up in.
“When I started playing in the minors, I always wanted to play one game in the NHL. Then you want two, then you want three, then you want a full season. It’s a great milestone. I’m not a guy who puts up a lot of points but for a guy like me. When you look at 1000, it’d be a great accomplishment for me.”
While he’s had another set back in his career, his desire to keep going makes that milestone incredibly hard to bet against.