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30.01.2019 07:31
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TORONTO – You could say that Stephane Robidas became a Texan. Marcus Peters Jersey . Having spent more than a decade of his professional life in Dallas, Texas became a bona-fide second home for the native of Sherbrooke, Quebec. It was almost like I was a Texan, Robidas says. I was part of it for so long. This is not a hockey story, but instead a story on the reverberations of a life within hockey. So often in sports – and perhaps rightfully so – we focus on player movement through the lens of the team but rarely through that of the individual. Robidass exit from Dallas, where he first landed in the fall of 2002, was painful. He played more than 700 games there with the Stars, but it was leaving the place where he and his family built a life that was particularly tough and not without a few tears. -- Drafted by his hometown Montreal Canadiens in 1995, Robidas always figured hed finish his career in Dallas, but that was not ultimately to be. He signed a three-year deal this summer to play in Toronto. Its like moving away from home, he said of leaving the Lone Star state. Its the same thing because I can honestly say Dallas was home for me. Obviously Im from Quebec, Im proud to be French Canadian and I will always go back home in the summer, but my life was in Dallas for the longest time. Hed built his family there. He was at his best as a professional there. His friends were there. And then suddenly he was gone, sporting a Ducks jersey three weeks after he was first approached about leaving. -- It was a Sunday in March earlier this year when the world first shook for the Robidas clan. Still fighting his way back from the first of two broken right leg injuries, Robidas was practicing with his Stars teammates that day in Dallas. He grabbed a bite to eat after the on-ice session and was on his way to the gym for a workout when the still newish general manager of the team, Jim Nill, approached. Nill invited Robidas into his office for a chat. Do I work out first? Robidas asked. No, Nill said, come and see me before you work out. Long the second in command to Ken Holland in Detroit, Nill started by saying how much the Stars appreciated everything that Robidas had done – he was in his 11th season with the team – adding how much they loved him in the process. Then he told Robidas that two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders – teams with more certain playoff hopes than the Stars – were interested in his services for the remainder of the year. Robidas was confused. He hadnt played since the end of November and was uncertain of when hed be back. But he understood the opportunity that was being presented, an opportunity to perhaps capture a Cup in his twilight years. He put it up front, Robidas said glowingly of Nill. He said hey, I think for you and your career, this is the best thing. Youre not going to be rushed to come back [from the injury] and you have a chance to win a Cup. It will be good for your career. The Stars – with whom hed first been traded to more than 11 years earlier – were doing him a favour, he thought. They were offering him a prime chance to chase the Cup in one of two places, neither of which Nill would divulge at that point. Robidas had his 37th birthday the following day, a Monday. His thoughts raced. He had no idea what was to come, only that it wasnt going to be in Dallas, the place hed made his home for so many years. The whole day, Im thinking Im going to get traded, but I dont know where, Robidas recalls. My head is spinning 100 miles an hour. Later that night, the Stars – minus Robidas, who would sadly never play another shift with the team – hosted the Sabres at the American Airlines Center. Theyd win the evening on a third period power play goal from Alex Chiasson and were due to fly out immediately afterward for a date in Columbus the next night. Knowing a trade was coming – though he didnt know where – Robidas decided hed better say his goodbyes. I might not be back, he told them. The next morning, he arrived at a mostly quiet rink. He was there to skate with the teams skills coach, now more than three months after he first broke his knee against Chicago. Robidas was just about to take the ice when Nill approached, once more, in the Stars dressing room. It was Anaheim, he said of the team which had emerged for his services. You okay with that? Nill asked. Robidas responded affirmatively. Nill told him not to tell anyone yet. He would call up Ducks general manager Bob Murray and make the deal – which sent a fourth round pick to Dallas. In shock, Robidas grabbed his phone and already there were a rush of texts from everywhere. They all wanted to know if it was true, if hed been traded away from the Stars one more time. Per Nills instruction, Robidas kept quiet. Instead, he dialed up his ex-wife, Marie-Eve, who proceeded to pick up their two kids, Justin and Lexie, from school. Trades, we forget, affect not only the player, but his family and in this particular case, news of the trade was devastating. Justin, you see, had been born in Texas, was raised in Texas. All he really knew was Texas. And so out came the tears when the elder Robidas pulled into his driveway and found his son playing hockey in the garage. Justin was getting rid of his Stars jersey, he told his dad. Hed erased the Stars app on his phone, too. That Friday, the Stars were due to honour their all-time leading scorer, Mike Modano. Justin was among the nine kids due to take the ice for the ceremony, but upon learning of the trade, heartbroken, he didnt want to do it. He was crushed, Robidas said, still noticeably pained by the memory. Now with his third organization in a matter of months, Robidas is doing his best to adjust. His kids have moved back to Quebec with his ex-wife, a reality thats made day-to-day life different and admittedly difficult in Toronto. As a Star, hed wake up in the morning, drive the kids to school, hit the ice for practice and then pick them up from school again afterward. Now, hes mostly alone. Thats the toughest thing for me, he said. Now I wake up every morning, Im by myself. I get off practice, I go home. Its a different lifestyle. He isnt complaining. Its a reality of the business, he knows, and not ultimately all that unique. He calls Justin and Lexie every day, FaceTimes with them often, and when theres a break in the schedule, Robidas hops a quick early morning flight to Quebec, if only to spend the day with them. Theyll see their dad when the Leafs visit the Canadiens. Theyll visit in November. Hell head back to Sherbrooke for Christmas. Its an adjustment. Im not the first guy that it happens to and Im not the last guy either, he says. Youve just got to deal with it the best you can. The kids are still adjusting to the drastic cultural shift from the big lights of Dallas, where theres lots of money, Robidas says, to the working-class norms of Sherbrooke. His son still misses Texas plenty. He chats with his hockey buddies there all the time, tells his dad he misses those friends, misses Dallas. This will be their first winter, Robidas says, their first chance to live in the snow. He worries for them, but knows the new experience will do them good. More culture, more life experience, can only be a positive. Kids, they adjust, Robidas says. Its amazing how they adjust to things. A lot of the time, we worry about them, but as long as they feel like theyre loved and you take care of them and you spend time with them and theyre not alone, theyll adjust. And he will too. Though its clear, Dallas will not be forgotten. 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