“It was unreal”: Hockey Fights Cancer fundraiser support Stamford coach Robinson

STAMFORD – It was a magnificent event and an extreme show of support for coach Doug Robinson and his family this past Saturday afternoon (April 30) at Terry Conners Rink.

A very large gathering of friends and supporters showed up for the Hockey Fights Cancer fundraiser to help Robinson and his family with their medical expenses as Robinson continues his ongoing battle against cancer.

Along with the funds raised between the gate receipts and the several other fundraising things, of just as much importance was how much the huge turnout and outpouring of support meant to Robinson and his family.

“This was amazing to see all these people who came to show support and love for my dad and our family,” Casey Robinson, Doug’s daughter, said as the event concluded. “It was unreal!”

Doug Robinson has been a police officer for the Stamford Police Department for 33 years. And for one of his side jobs, which is a passion of his and another way to give back to the community and affect youth in a positive way, Robinson has been a hockey coach for the Stamford High School and the current Stamford/Westhill cooperative boys hockey teams for the last 25 years.

Robinson was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer of the Parotid Gland slightly over two years ago, and he has had several treatments and procedures. The cancer has spread to his liver and spine and has resulted in a Stage 4 diagnosis.

Although Robinson is currently undergoing the arduous treatments which often have him tired and drained, he toughed it out and showed up at last Saturday’s event to greet supporters from a slight distance and express his gratitude. Robinson was joined by his wife, Judy, his daughter, Casey, and sons James and Kevin.

James and Kevin, both of whom excelled as players for the Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cooperative program, played for the Stamford Police Department team in the game against the Stamford Fire Department team.

The Stamford Police Department team broke open a close game in the second period and then withstood a late SFD rally for an 11-9 victory in a well-played, spirited game of quality hockey given the background of the players.

Justin Jesseau had a hat trick and Jason Scanlon netted a pair of goals for the winners. Scanlon, among a few players from the Norwalk Police Department on the SPD team, was a fellow assistant coach with Robinson at Stamford High for a few years and then Scanlon assisted Robinson for several more years when Robinson became head coach.

Scanlon scored the goal that snapped a 3-3 tie early in the second period and ignited a run in which the SPD spurted out to a 10-4 lead. Doug’s son, Kevin, also scored a goal for the winners.

James Robinson may not have scored a goal in this game, but it was such a warm feeling for him as he reminisced about a very special moment for himself and his father regarding the goal James scored in high school which is forever etched in the Robinson family hockey lore.

It was certainly a bittersweet goal for James’ father, Doug, because Doug was the head coach for Stamford High on that night his Black Knights played James’ Fairfield co-op team and the game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation.

Shortly thereafter James scored the goal in overtime which gave his team the 2-1 sudden victory along with giving his father some mixed emotions. There was the empathetic emotion of the tough defeat for coach Robinson’s own Stamford High School players. But Doug, however, could obviously not help but to have a great amount of fatherly pride on the side.

“We met at Penny’s (restaurant) after the game. We looked at each other and we both just laughed,” James recalled with a huge smile. “He told me, ‘When I saw you get the puck, I knew it was over. I knew that if it was going to be anyone, it was going to be you.’ ”

In addition to the donated gate receipts, there was some great hockey memorabilia and many more quality items up for auction. There were autographed jerseys from the likes of Greenwich’s Cam Atkinson, currently a Philadelphia Flyers star; Darien’s Spencer Knight, a Florida Panthers goalie; Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin; and Jack Eichel’s Boston University jersey.

There were several very nice touches to the pre-game ceremony.

After some presentations and acknowledgements near center ice, players on each team were announced. The firefighters wore red jerseys and all of them had “Robinson” on the back of them above the number 15, Robinson’s number in high school.

Soon after there was a moment of silence in remembrance of Jeffrey Cortese and Charlie Capalbo, two young men who have passed away in the last couple months after their lengthy battles against cancer.

Cortese and Capalbo both excelled as FCIAC athletes.

Cortese passed away on March 15 at the age of 27 after a long and courageous battle with Giloblastoma. He was a team captain for the hockey, football, and baseball teams at Trinity Catholic High School.

Capalbo passed away on April 24 at the age of 23 after his own courageous battle with cancer. He was first diagnosed with the disease shortly after the end of yet another outstanding season as the goaltender for the Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe cooperative program.

The music of the Fairfield County Police Pipes and Drums along with the support of the Stamford Police Department Honor Guard provided another classy touch.

As Doug Robinson took in the pre-game and game action while sitting on the platform behind the corner boards, he could see all three state championship banners involving Stamford High School on the wall down the other end of the rink and he was a key contributor to all of them.

Robinson was a tough, hard-nosed underclassman forward for coach Al Gurney’s Black Knights who won the school’s first state championship in 1978 with a 5-0 victory over Notre Dame-West Haven in the Division II final.

Robinson was an assistant coach for head coach Roger Haggerty when Stamford defeated crosstown rival Westhill, 4-0, in the Division II final in 2001

And shortly after the city’s two public high school’s combined to form the Stamford/Westhill co-op program, Robinson and fellow co-coach John Santagata guided that program’s 2015-16 team to the Division III state championship.

Robinson was Stamford High’s head coach and Santagata was Westhill’s head coach until that time arrived in October of 2015 when the two programs had to merge to form the cooperative program.

Robinson and Santagata assured the players and their parents that this situation was going to work out positively, and Robinson and Santagata created the smooth transition to make that come to fruition.

And it was Santagata who did so much legwork as the organizer of this Hockey Fights Cancer event to make it a huge success.

“It went really well today,” Santagata said. “I’m happy with the turnout. The hockey community is unbelievable. The people in this area and the hockey community all throughout the FCIAC, they always come out to support one another.

“Me and Doug have been coaching together for 24 years and we’ve been friends for all those years – whether we’ve been coaching against each other or coaching with each other,” Santagata continued. “For all of us and for his family to see all the support out there today, it was just great to see.”

More fundraising options are available to help this most classy Robinson family.

There is the Join Team Robinson event on Friday, May 6, at the Knights of Columbus in Stamford from 4-11 p.m. The donation fee is $20 for the fundraiser which includes food, music, raffles, and other things.

There is also the Team Robinson GoFundMe page, which is Fundraiser for Doug Robinson by David O’Meara: Team Robinson (gofundme.com)

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