Robbins and Wright Broke Barriers In Blenheim | Black History Month
Mike Robbins and Buddy Wright were two barrier breaking hockey players for the 1971-72 Blenheim Blades.
The duo suited up for the Blenheim Blades at a time when Black hockey players were almost unheard of in Ontario’s Junior hockey landscape.
Robbins joined the team in 1969, at a time when he was the only Black player in the league. Buddy Wright joined in the 1971 season. Wright grew up in Chatham’s East End and was active within Taylor A.C. in Chatham, and also was part of Chatham’s 1963 Ontario champion tyke baseball team. Hockey was in his family as his uncle was the famed Eddie Wright, who his father Allan had taken him to watch play many times. Prior to their arrival with the Blenheim Blades, another Chatham product, Gerry Binga, was the first Black player to suit up for the Blenheim Blades in the late 1960s.
“Mike Robbins, he was so strong,” recalls Marg Baldwin, wife of Blades founder and longtime coach Dave Baldwin. “Dave would have them put another player on their back and skate, and he always said that with Mike, it was like he had no one on his back, he was so strong.”
Robbins and Wright also had to be strong of character to survive the verbal onslaught they’d face in the games. The team, according to Robbins, faced challenges due to their diversity.
“Back then it was a tough go, you get the calls, the racial slurs. Not so much from the players, but from the fans. It didn’t matter what town you went to, you heard it,” said Robbins.
The duo were local groundbreakers, providing representation for Black youth in hockey 50 years ago.