Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Day In Sunny Treherne

I'm off the grid today as I'll be spending a sunny day in the town of Treherne, Manitoba. It's located about halfway between Winnipeg and Brandon, and about a half-hour south of Portage la Prairie. They have a brand-new aquatic center that might be one of the best in the province, and I'll be working as one of the umpires at the Treherne Northstars Slo-Pitch Softball Tournament! The Northstars are the local hockey program, and I'm pretty excited to be a part of this long-running tournament! But being that HBIC is a hockey blog, it's time to profile the only NHL player who hails from Treherne: Mr. Florent Robidoux!

While he born in Cypress River on May 5, 1960, Florent grew up in Treherne. He certainly knew how to put the puck in the net as his two seasons with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks proved, but he never seemed to be able to crack an NHL lineup. Robidoux scored 79 goals and added 98 assists in 140 WHL games over two seasons! While he filled the net with regularity and certainly set up his teammates, Robidoux wasn't drafted by an NHL squad in 1980. Instead, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks and was assigned to the New Brunswick Hawks for the 1980-81 season.

Florent played well in his first pro season at the AHL level. After 35 games where he scored 12 goals and 11 assists while showing some toughness in amassing 110 PIMs, the Chicago Blackhawks called him up to the NHL! It was here that Robidoux was asked to continue to play that tough role, often lining up against some of the NHL's toughest hombres. One such incident in his rookie season came when he and Boston's Stan Jonathan - never one to shy away from the roughness - got into an altercation!
In Robidoux's defence, I'm not sure I'd want to tangle with Jonathan either, but he did his job in wrestling with one of Boston's agitators so that skilled Blackhawks such as Denis Savard and Tom Lysiak didn't have to worry about him.

The Blackhawks would miss the playoffs in 1980-81, but Robidoux finished the season with six goals and two assists to go along with 75 PIMs in the 39 games in which he appeared. It seemed as though he made enough of an impact with the Blackhawks to warrant a longer look next season, but Robidoux started the 1981-82 season in New Brunswick once more.

Once more, Robidoux made an impact in his AHL season as he posted 31 goals and 35 assists in 69 games while adding 200 minutes in the penalty box. Robidoux was tough, he could score, and he was a play-maker. The Blackhawks called on him once more, but this call-up only lasted four games. He did manage a goal and two helpers in those four games, but the Blackhawks would miss the playoffs once more.

Instead, Robidoux went back to the New Brunswick Hawks - a team he helped to the top spot in the American Hockey League with 107 points - and dominated in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Hawks dispatched the Adirondack Red Wings in five games and the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in five games before downing the Binghamton Whalers in five games to win the Calder Cup! Robidoux finished second in playoff scoring with the Hawks, putting nine goals and ten assists on the board in 15 games!

With guys like Steve Larmer, Mike Kaszycki, and Warren Skorodenski on the Hawks' roster, there was a sense that the Blackhawks may move a number of players up. Robidoux appeared to be on the short list of players that the Blackhawks would promote, tragedy would strike Robidoux that would keep him off the ice for the entire 1982-83 season. Robidoux was in a car accident in July that resulted in injuries that required the entire season from which to recover, and it was a setback that changed Robidux's career trajectory for good.

Chicago assigned Robidoux to the AHL's Springfield Indians in 1983-84 where he put up decent numbers: 26 goals, 22 assists, and 123 PIMs in 68 games, but Springfield finished fourth after changing players and lines on a weekly basis. They were ousted in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Robidoux, it should be noted, was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks for nine games in this season, but he recorded no points and no penalty minutes in being used sparingly by the NHL club.

Unhappy with the direction his career was taking in Springfield, Robidoux moved to the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals for the 1984-85 season where Chicago had placed players. Things seemed to get better for the power forward as he finished second in team scoring with 29 goals and 35 assists in 76 games while spending 184 minutes watching from the sin bin. Milwaukee, however, would have a dreadful season, finishing the year with a 25-47-10 record, dead-last in the IHL.

Chicago, after seeing Robidoux bounce among lower-tier minor-league teams, cut Robidoux loose, making him a free agent in the summer of 1985. Looking to add some additional toughness to their team and affiliates, the Philadelphia Flyers signed Robidoux and assigned him to the AHL's Hershey Bears for the 1985-86 season!

Things didn't go as well as Robidoux could have hoped, however, as he found himself down the depth chart and certainly down the enforcer chart in Hershey with some of the big kids they had. Robidoux only managed to get into 47 games, and his role was reduced to being a third- or fourth-line player. He managed just six goals and three assists to go along with 81 PIMs, and Robidoux would leave Hershey unsatisfied after playying in just three Calder Cup Playoff games while the Bears fell to the Adirondack Red Wings in the Calder Cup Final.

Robidoux would sign with Milwaukee for the 1986-87 season, but he'd find himself sitting more often than playing. Robidoux would retire from professional hockey after just 15 games in his second stint with Milwaukee. His final season would see him post two goals and seven assists to go along with 16 PIMs, but he still showed the offensive capabilities in the playoffs that got him in the show. Robidoux would score three goals and three assists in six IHL playoff games before Milwaukee was eliminated from the Turner Cup Playoffs.

There's the career of Treherne's only NHL player to date, and he appeared to be a good one before the car accident in 1982. He was a heckuva scoring threat, didn't mind dropping the gloves, and certainly could dish out a few helpers when needed. While there is very little information on where Florent Robidoux is today, he did appear in the news in 2010 when he and his son were part of a traveling AAA minor team that went all over the continent to play hockey!

Florent Robidoux - a small-town Manitoba hockey legend!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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