Robb Tallas calls the past six years his “second page of life.”
“A new start,” he added earlier this week after being named the Panthers goaltending consultant.
For Tallas, this ‘second page’ has included running the Panthers summer camps at the team’s incredible
ICE training facility in Coral Springs, working as a private instructor to several NHL goalies, and now joining the Panthers.
But none have been as vital as the life-altering moment Tallas experienced on New Year’s Eve in 2003 when a blot clot sent him into full cardiac arrest while playing professional hockey in Finland.
“I’m lucky to have recovered,” said Tallas, 36, who played 99 games in the NHL with the Bruins and Blackhawks.
And grateful the Panthers have tapped him to work with goalies Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen
this season as the team prepares to open camp Sept. 12.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted since retiring here in Florida,” Tallas said. “Tomas called me about four weeks ago about getting on the ice with him, and we started working then. There’s a relationship and trust factor you have to build between coach and goalie. And I know some ex-teammates of (Clemmensen) and I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. So I’m very excited about the opportunity here.”
Tallas, an undrafted native of Edmonton, has worked hard for everything he’s earned during his professional career. He bounced between the Western Hockey League (WHL), American Hockey League (AHL) and East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) before signing with the Bruins in September of 1995. He played 87 games with the Bruins over four seasons before playing 12 with the Blackhawks in 2000-01.
After playing for the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for two seasons, Tallas found himself the starting goalie for HPK Hameenlinna of the Finnish Elite League. Things were going well…until November of 2003.
That’s when Tallas returned home from a game one night and thought he had severe heartburn. When the discomfort didn’t go away and, in fact, got worse, he went to a local hospital. Tests revealed his heart was swollen and he was told to take some time off.
After taking several weeks off, Tallas returned in late December to his team. After stopping 20 shots in his first game back, Tallas stopped 40 in his second game and felt fine on the 45 minute bus ride back to his house. But shortly after returning home, Tallas once again felt discomfort.
“This time I thought I was having a heart attack,” he said.
Tallas was rushed to the hospital. Shortly after being hooked up to an electrocardiogram, Tallas went into full cardiac arrest.
“I thought at first it was virus and I’d be fine after I rested,” Tallas said. “But it was much worse. I had been taking some medication at that time and that’s what caused the blot clot.”
Tallas returned to the U.S., shortly after and was helped through the hurdles of medical insurance and recovery by the Bruins and Dr. Adolph Hutter at Massachusetts General Hospital. Although Tallas was told to stop playing for his safety due to a small scar on the back of heart, he returned to Europe in 2004 where he played a handful of games in Austria before retiring.
“It was against doctors orders, but I didn’t want to give up playing,” Tallas recalled. “But there was an uncertainty playing after (the episode in Finland). And I guess I didn’t want to give up playing that way. I think the door had to close on my terms.”
Back in Coral Springs, Tallas began working as a private instructor and with the Panthers on their summer camps. As he prepared for life without a uniform, Tallas typed up a ‘goal sheet’ with what he wanted to accomplish during this new phase of his life.
It included working for the Panthers as a goalie consultant.
“I’m happy to achieve my goal, but there’s a lot of work to do,” he added. “I may not have been as talented during my career but I was hard-working and I was always keen about the learning side and always thought I’d want to teach one day.
“I think my strength will be that I’ve been here, at this level,” Tallas added. “I know a good goal, I know a bad goal. I know what it’s like to play on back-to-back nights. I think I know what they’ll (the goalies) need and not need. At this level, there’s so much pressure, it’s something you have to recognize. At the same time, you have to enjoy coming to the rink and they have to know they can talk to you.”
For Tallas, it’s all part of the second page of his life.