Welcome to what is going to be a solemn edition of Baby Penguins Banter for today, September 27, 2010.
In this week’s column, I will look back at the life of Darcy Robinson, a former defenseman with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He spent four seasons in the Penguins organization, playing with both the Baby Penguins and the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.
Robinson played 158 games with the Baby Penguins and had 21 points. He played for the Nailers in 16 games over parts of three seasons and had six points.
He left the United States after the 2004-2005 season to join Asiago HC of Serie A in Italy. When he left, no one had any idea that the 2004-2005 campaign was the last one he would play in North America.
In 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, Robinson played 66 games with Asiago, posting 17 points.
But on the first night of the 2007-2008 season, tragedy struck.
During Asiago’s opening game, Robinson had just completed a play and looked to be in good spirits when he suddenly collapsed on the ice. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but died shortly thereafter.
The news came while the game was still going on, and Asiago’s match was cut short. All other games in the Italian league that were to be held during the upcoming weekend were canceled.
No one had an explanation for what happened. He had passed a physical required for all players, and those who worked with him on his past teams said there were no signs of medical problems. Darcy’s mother even said in an article that Darcy treated his body like gold—so much so—that he rarely drank alcohol.
I still remember the night I heard of Darcy’s passing. Three years today doesn’t seem like a long time, but just to put things in perspective, Bleacher Report wasn’t even around yet.
At any rate, I was a senior in college. I returned home from a night at my job in a campus food place and, as was my normal routine, logged onto my Myspace (an account I don't even have anymore).
I read my bulletins and saw one from my sister called “R.I.P. Robinson.” My heart jumped, and I remember thinking that I hoped this bulletin wasn’t what I thought it was.
Unfortunately, my sister posted the link reporting Darcy’s passing that was posted on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins website.
Three years later, it is hard to wrap my head around what happened to Darcy. Even after I read that he had a virus in his heart that led to his death, it still seemed so shocking.
However, it has been nice to look back at his life.
Darcy was not a star player for the Penguins, but it never seemed to bother him. When the Penguins filmed a documentary called “Chasing the Dream” in 2002-2003, he was always in good spirits, even though he was often a healthy scratch.
During “Chasing the Dream”, Darcy carried around a video camera nicknamed the “Robo Cam.” He did mock interviews with teammates and showed them getting ready for games. He also turned the camera on himself and did some narration—all while just having a plain old good time.
In another segment, Darcy went to a local gas station to sign autographs for fans. He encouraged some shy fans to stop hiding around the corner and come meet him. He even went outside to pump gas and wash windows while saying “This is great!”
Sure, it’s part of the sometimes gimmicky world that comes with playing minor league hockey, but Darcy didn’t seem to mind.
His death touched me more than I ever predicted it could, even though he wasn’t a Penguin anymore.
Prior to his passing, I had heard other unfortunate incidents of other athletes dying at a young age. I always thought it was sad and had sympathies for the families and friends of the players, but I never thought I would see the day when it hit the Penguins organization.
However, the cloud does have a silver lining.
Darcy’s legacy is alive and well in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
In the 2007-2008 season, the Penguins held a special weekend of remembrances for Darcy.
The first night, fans gave an optional donation of five dollars to dyslexia research (Darcy dealt with dyslexia during his life) to sign a banner bearing Darcy’s nickname “Robo”. The team also raffled off the first of two of Darcy’s Asiago jerseys and handed out a lineup card and program bearing his photo.
His parents were also on hand for the weekend, and before the Friday night game, they came on to the ice to drop the ceremonial first puck and received a standing ovation from the fans in attendance.
The next night, the team showed a special tribute video to look back at Darcy’s time as a Penguin. Following the ceremony, a generous fan gave Darcy’s family a game worn Penguins jersey, and the banner bearing the signatures of Penguins fans was raised to the rafters.
The Penguins’ All-Star Reading Program, which is conducted in area elementary schools each year, was re-named Robo’s Readers. The program encourages children to get involved in reading, and the class who reads the most books gets a pizza party where Penguins players and the team mascot, Tux, are in attendance.
It is unfortunate that Darcy did not get to play hockey longer and that his life ended so suddenly.
But (and I don’t want to sound cliché here, but it’s the truth), it is good that Penguins fans have so many special memories of him and that he will never be forgotten. He had great hockey talent and he was just as great of a person.
R.I.P., Darcy Robinson.