By Yana Loftus-Farren for floridapanthers.com
Colby Robak was raised in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba, population 750, but his small town roots never prevented him from dreaming big.
Robak made his debut on the ice and began developing hockey skills before he was old enough to lace up his own skates. He started skating at just three years old and joined a hockey team at the age of four. The defenseman played hockey exclusively throughout his childhood as it was difficult to gather sufficient players to form other athletic teams.
“It’s the only sport I played,” said Robak. “I come from a real small town of like 700 people so it’s pretty hard to put together a team for any other sport.”
Due to his location, Robak’s commitment to hockey was tested at a young age as it required him to spend a lot of time and effort in order to progress within the sport. However, his dedication never faltered and neither did that of his support system. His parents’ assistance was a crucial element that allowed for his ongoing involvement in the sport.
“My parents got me here with all the money, time and travel that it took,” said Robak. “Just coming from where I’m from it’s pretty hard to find teams along the way. It took three towns to make one team so there’s a lot of travel involved and a lot of hours spent on the road. I’m very appreciative of it.”
His small town upbringing wasn’t evident at the 2011 Panthers Development Camp in July. In fact the tattooed 21-year old seemed to easily fit in among the hustle and bustle of South Florida, which is home to approximately 5.5 million people. As Robak was drafted 2nd round by the Panthers in 2008, number 46 overall, this isn’t his first time participating in the annual camp for prospects.
“This is my third camp now so I’ve gotten used to this area and I could definitely get used to playing here.”
The excitement was clear as he expressed several things he anticipates about his potential future move to Sunrise to play for the Panthers.
“Just the city in general. There’s so much to do here,” said Robak. “People come to vacation here and whatnot so to actually live here must be great.”
Robak played impressively this past season during his first year as a pro in the American Hockey League, finishing with 7 goals and 17 assists for 24 points in 76 games for Rochester. He refused to fall into the shadows of veteran AHL players and instead saw his first season as a chance to let his coaches and teammates guide him along the way.
“The coaching staff gave me a lot of opportunity,” said Robak. “I mean there’s a great group of older guys down there who really helped me out along the way to find my role in the American league and hopefully the NHL. It was a lot of fun.“
In regards to the upcoming move from Rochester to San Antonio for the 2011-2012 season, Robak seemed to be comfortable and enthused with the location change. He looks forward to the weather in Texas among other things.
“I ended up googling the city one day and it looks like there’s a lot to do there so it should be fun,” said Robak.