Now a left winger for the Dallas Stars, Jason Robertson, aka “Robo”, was born in California into a hockey-loving family (younger brother Nick was selected in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs), until his parents moved the young athletes to Michigan to up any chances of going pro. In 2015, Robertson was drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs, where he scored the most goals of any rookie since Anthony Stewart. In the next two years, he became the first Frontenac to record back-to-back 40-goal seasons, then went on to win both the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy and CHL Top Scorer award for the Niagara IceDogs.
The Filipino-American (only the second in the league) made Dallas’s opening night roster in the 2020 season, where he was the Calder Memorial Trophy runner-up, before becoming the first player in Dallas history to record hat-tricks in consecutive games.
Below, he talks growing up in California as a Kings fan, favorite goal he’s ever scored, the diet of a star player, rowdy Dallas fans, and the future of the sport.
LEO: What’s it been like to grow up playing in California? Why aren’t there more Cali hockey players?
JASON ROBERTSON: It was definitely different than in Detroit and Ontario. People don’t tend to think of Cali as a hockey state. The beach and sun are more attached to the idea of Cali instead of ice. There is limited access to ice and it did get expensive with all the traveling to different rinks and outside of the state. It was exciting to see the LA Kings play though, and I feel that when they won their Stanley Cups is when hockey got more attention in Cali. You saw more people going to rinks to skate and playing hockey. Unlike some outdoor sports, hockey is also a year round sport and weather is not a concern. The limited access to ice and expense is probably why there aren’t more Cali hockey players. But it is encouraging to see the sport grow.
Now that ESPN has hockey back, what do you foresee for the future of the sport?
I see it as a great way to grow the sports fan base. Our game was actually on ESPN+ recently, and I think that’s a great way to attract a bigger audience. Being recognized on a bigger platform is rewarding to the players and gives people a chance to experience the game. As a younger player in the NHL, I’m able to appreciate the continued growth of hockey.
How do you maintain your diet and what does it look like?
I have a consistent diet, especially on game day– it’s all routine. On game days, I usually go to the rink, have an omelet with oatmeal for breakfast, go practice and then go back home. Before returning to the rink, I eat meatballs, pasta and vegetables and then right before the game, I always have a pregame snack and oatmeal so that I’m not hungry while I’m playing. I started this routine my first year of pro hockey and stuck to it ever since. I’m actually really big on eating at Freshii. I try to incorporate a meal from there for lunch or dinner during the week.
How do you eat and exercise in the off-season to maintain?
I try to keep it as routine as possible during the week. I start my days by going to skate at 6:30am with my brother Nick and our trainer Tommy Mannino. I’ll usually follow that with an hour and a half workout at 10am.
Monday to Friday I order from a local meal service company in Detroit that prepares all of my meals. On weekends I am more lenient; I’ll eat a quesadilla or some pasta for lunch, and have salmon and a vegetable for dinner on Saturday. Sundays are my days for Chipotle. Every Sunday I get Chipotle for lunch and then will usually grill steak and roast sweet potatoes for dinner.
Best goal you’ve ever scored?
My first goal in the NHL was my best goal. I’ve always dreamed about scoring my first goal in the NHL and once I did, it felt like such a large accomplishment. What makes my first goal the best is that it wasn’t a typical goal. It went into the net after popping off my back. A bit of an unorthodox goal, but it counted.
Hockey icon and why?
Jaromír Jágr. He’s been the player I looked up to since I was 10 or 12 years old. I’ve always admired the way he plays and protects the puck. He plays in a smart, strategic way that allows him to be strong on his edges. He is also a great goal scorer, one of the best ever in the NHL. I hope to continue to play as long as he has played pro hockey.
Favorite hockey slang?
Pizza. I don’t know how that became slang in hockey, but it’s a brutal turnover, a straight up bad pass that is intercepted by the other team and ends up in your own net. You never want to be the guy that throws a pizza.
Worst barn/best barn?
The worst barn has to be an old rink in Ontario, California. The ice wasn’t great, but what tops it is as the worst has to be the roof. I remember when it was raining, I would look over and see all the parents using umbrellas inside the rink, and our team was sliding on the wet ice, like it was a slip and slide. It was one of the first skating rinks I’d ever been on so I really didn’t have anything else to compare it to. The best barn is the AAC American Airlines Center, the Dallas Stars home arena. I love the layout, how high it goes, I love it all. But what really tops it are the dedicated fans that always come out to support us.
Definitely Dallas Stars fans. Our games sell out every night. It is such a privilege to play in front of them every night. Every game is in tribute to our dedicated fans for being so energized and always supporting our team. When the fans are cheering loud, it helps change the momentum of the game. It’s definitely an advantage for us.
I don’t have any pregame superstitions. I’m more routine based. I get to the rink on a game day at the same time every game. I get everything prepared before our team meetings, and then do the same warm-up off the ice. During on ice warm-ups, it is a bit more routine. I would be passing to the same guys every warm-up and shooting in the same spot. I think everyone in the NHL has their own routine.