Mike Robinson’s hockey career has taken a professional turn to open 2019.
The fifth-year forward has made the move from the Ridgebacks men’s hockey program to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. As of Jan. 2 he has a goal and 10 penalty minutes in five games with the Solar Bears.
“After the 2017-18 season with UOIT, I had a few teams interested in signing me to finish the season in the ECHL. However, I made the decision to return to UOIT the following season so I could finish my degree,” said Robinson, who will graduate with a communications degree. “Playing pro hockey has always been a goal of mine and because I had enough classes to graduate at Christmas, I made the decision to sign with Orlando and start my professional career.”
Heading into the 2018 holiday break, Robinson was leading UOIT in scoring with 12 goals and 18 points through 17 games. Wrapping up his career with UOIT, he finished third in goals in Ridgebacks program history with 48, fourth in points with 89, and ninth in assists with 41.
“Playing at UOIT has been huge in furthering my hockey career,” he said. “The opportunity my coaches gave me over the last four and a half years has really helped me advance. I enjoyed heading to the rink every day and seeing my teammates and coaches. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The OUA is an underrated league, but it is only a matter of time before U SPORTS hockey will be a top option from which professional teams recruit players. Overall, UOIT has taught me a lot about myself and has helped me become the player I am today. Starting my professional career, I am able to put my best skate forward thanks to UOIT.”
Earlier this year, two former Ridgebacks also signed pro contracts in the ECHL. Nate Mitton joined the Cincinnati Cyclones, and Ben Blasko signed with the Tulsa Oilers. Other UOIT men’s hockey players to have recently gone pro include Loren Ulett (Birmingham Bulls – SPHL), Jesse Stoughton (Pensacola Ice Flyers – SPHL) and Mark Petaccio (Evansville Thunderbolts – SPHL).
Making the change from academics and university sports hockey to playing professional is something Robinson has already noticed as being quite different.
“The game is played differently and the guys are bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “It’s nice to just focus on hockey and improving my skills. My daily routine is different as well, most days you are done at the rink around noon so you have the rest of the day to prepare for the next day. It’s also a huge transition going from playing just 28 games a season to 70 plus games. So far, it has required quite a physical adjustment on my part.”
The other noticeable difference for Robinson is playing hockey so far away from his hometown of Stouffville. He always played within Ontario in junior, his time with the Niagara IceDogs being the furthest he’s played from home, before returning close to home at UOIT.
“When deciding where to attend school, one of the biggest things I looked at was how close each school was to my home in Stouffville,” he said. “I wanted to allow my parents to come watch as many games as they could and not have to drive so far. To have the opportunity to drive 30 minutes for a nice home cooked meal or see my grandparents was a huge part of my time at university. Living now in Orlando is a lot different, moving so far away from home to pursue a goal of mine, my family and I have had to make some sacrifices. I will miss seeing my family, friends, and teammates on a daily basis and special occasions with them but hopefully they can come visit me in the near future.”