Louis Robitaille is now officially an ex-Hershey Bear. Robitaille has signed a one year deal with SG Cortina of the Italian Hockey League.
With the departure of Robitaille, who led the AHL in PIM’s for the 07-08 season, and the retirement of the AHL’s all-time career PIM leader Dennis Bonvie, the penalty box attendants in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton might have to look for other gainful employment during games between the Southern Division rivals.
From day one of the Hershey affiliation with the Washington Capitals, Robitaille, largely because of his antagonistic style of play, became public enemy number one to any team facing off against the Bears. The offensively challenged Robitaille, while scoring only 17 goals in his 200 game Hershey career, contributed mightily to the Bears’ success with his ability to lure opponents into taking untimely penalties.
One of the best examples took place during the first round of the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs. Robitaille, with Hershey, up two games to none in the series, but down 2-0 early in the 2nd period of Game 3, was able to goad Norfolk defenseman James Wisniewski and Norfolk enforcer Shawn Thornton into taking penalties during the same sequence, which swung the momentum of the game. During the skirmish, Robitaille and Wisniewski each drew coincidental minor penalties, while Thornton received a major fighting penalty and two game misconducts. On the ensuing power play, Hershey was able to score a power play goal, their first of four straight goals, which paved the way to a 5-4 OT win and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
While this change of address from Chocolatetown to Cortina will force a drastic change in culture, the move also figures to dramatically increase this former 4th liner’s workload. In order to fulfill his responsibilites with the Italian club, including increased ice time and the chance to be part of special teams play, Louis will undergo a positional change from left wing to defense. The switch is nothing new to Louis, who played defense the majority of his junior career with the Montreal Rocket of the QMJHL and early in his pro career, before being converted to forward by Portland Pirate head coach Tim Army.
Despite leaving Hershey for a season abroad, the controversial Robitaille also leaves behind a lasting impression on all who came into contact with him, seemingly an equal number of critics and supporters. Perhaps current Washington Capitals and former Hershey Bears coach Bruce Boudreau said it best when he commented that “Louis is a guy that you hate when he’s on the other team, but hate him a little less when he’s on yours.”