Leafs’ Rob Wright remembered — inspiring others to be their best

Rob Wright takes time to give this youngster tips on how successfully to breakout of the defensive zone.
The Nelson Daily photo

Published by The Nelson Daily

Rob Wright, hockey player and coach, tennis enthusiast, horseman, family man and downright a great person who would give anyone the shirt off his back, died of cancer Sunday at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson.

Wright, who spearheaded the recent development of the new Nelson Tennis Club facility above L.V. Rogers High School in Fairview and very closely tied to the Heritage City hockey community for decades, died after being diagnosed with kidney cancer during the summer.

“Rob has been instrumental to all facets of hockey in Nelson for many, many years,” said Nelson Leafs president Corey Viala.

“He not only coached the Nelson Leafs, but he continued to help develop and be an inspiration to hockey players of all ages and skill.”

“His goal always was to teach and show people the great game of hockey,” Viala added.

Wright, who co-coached with Ed Cooper, helped skipper the Green and White to a pair of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League titles in 1992 and 1993. Wright returned in 1998-99 to coach the Leafs in the Rocky Mountain Junior A Hockey League and for one more season in the KIJHL when the hockey club returned to Junior B.

Rob Wright was a permanent fixture at the rink, coaching teams in minor hockey, Junior B and Junior A, women’s hockey and teaching at the Trafalgar Hockey Academy. — Facebook

Wright was raised at Six Mile on the North Shore and attended A.I. Collinson Elementary before completing his schooling at Trafalgar Junior High and L.V. Rogers Secondary.

Wright was an excellent hockey player, playing on numerous rep teams in Nelson Minor Hockey before heading off to play Junior A in Kelowna with the Buckaroos in the BC Junior Hockey League from 1975-79.

During the 1978-79 season, Wright lead Kelowna in scoring with 87 points to finish in a tie for sixth in the BCJHL.

Wright returned to Nelson to suit up for the Nelson Maple Leafs of the Western International Junior Hockey League, playing six seasons wearing the Maple Leaf.

In 1985, Wright finished third in team scoring, following that up with a second-place spot in Leafs scoring as Nelson won the Savage and Patton Cups, the latter emblematic of Western Canadian Senior Hockey supremacy.

“When Rob played the game for the Nelson Senior Leafs, he didn’t take his size into account, because he played with his heart on his sleeve game in and game out,” said Viala, also wanting to express the Leafs deepest condolences to Tammy and the Wright family at this time.

“Rob’s passion for the game can be exemplified by the smile on his face each and every time that he stepped on the ice or stood behind his players.”

After retiring from the Senior Maple Leafs, Wright returned to the rink to coach in Nelson Minor Hockey, Nelson Leafs Junior team, Kootenay Ice of the BC Major Midget Hockey League, 10 years at the Trafalgar Hockey Academy as well as the Nelson Blueliners Women’s Hockey team.

“If you know Rob you will know how special he is,” Blueliner player Joanne Siderius said on Facebook about coach Wright.

“He was my hockey coach. He never judged me on my skills. He never judged me at all. He took me seriously in my desire to play hockey with as much fun and skill as possible. Keep your head up and your stick on the ice.”

“Good advice Rob,” Siderius added.

Hockey wasn’t the only interest Rob Wright enjoyed.

He was an avid horseman, accomplished metal worker and a man, who was ridiculously generous with his time, including spearheading the development of the Nelson Tennis Club.

“He drove the project forward with relentless energy, labouring every day on the site, pulling favours with his multitude of contacts in the construction industry, and downing tools to engage every visitor who wandered onto the site,” said Keith Bridger, president of the Nelson Tennis Club.

“Rob saw problems, not as obstacles, but opportunities,” Bridger added.

“Forever the prankster, he created a lighthearted camaraderie among the volunteers. He led by example, inspiring others to be their best, creating a wave of positive energy in the team that carries everything and everyone forward to the goal.”

It been said that you die the way you live — so true of Rob, Bridger explained.

“He never complained or pitied himself,” Bridger said.

“He always found something positive to say, even on his darkest days.”

Bridger said as Wright continued to take treatment for the cancer, he talked of building a cabin in the woods where we could pan for gold.

“What he gave, he got back. He did not walk that rough road alone. His wife Tammy was beside him every step of the way. He was supported and loved by his family and a multitude of friends. The entire community rallied behind him, for which he was very grateful.”

Bridger said it is not often that a community is blessed with such a champion, but Nelson was lucky enough to have Rob Wright bless the city with his presence.

“And we have become so much better for it,” Bridger said.

“Thank you, Robbie.”