Detroit – Robby Fabbri has been through this before. Twice, actually. So Fabbri understands how to get through a long period of time without playing hockey.
Fabbri suffered serious knee injuries to his left ACL, during consecutive years in 2017-18, which cost Fabbri 20 months of hockey during rehabilitation.
No hockey, no skating. So now, as the pandemic has snuffed the Red Wings’ season, and pushed back next season until December or January, Fabbri knows to handle the pause better than most.
“I was off for quite a while,” Fabbri told The Detroit News, talking about his knee woes from February 2017 to October 2018. “It definitely prepared me for something like this – the mental and physical side of it. I’ve been through it twice and I know what my body needs to stay in shape and I know what my mind needs.
“It’s helped me out, definitely. But saying that, I’m still excited about the chance to get back on the ice and get back in the gym and get back in the routine of summer training.”
Fabbri returned to his hometown of Toronto days after the Red Wings’ season was put on hold on March 12.
Fabbri and his girlfriend expected to stay at their condo for a few days and return to Detroit. But the coronavirus had other ideas.
“While I was here, that’s when they closed the borders,” said Fabbri, stalling any thoughts of sticking out the pandemic in Detroit. “Then the season was suspended. It was just how serious things were getting.
“Things are still pretty bogged down (in Toronto). Golf courses just opened up, which was nice. Stores have been allowed to open if they follow protocols. But gatherings are still around only five people and restaurants are still closed. You can only order takeout and delivery.”
The rinks in Toronto have been closed, too, so Fabbri hasn’t been skating.
“No rinks, so I turned my spare bedroom in the condo into a gym for me and my girlfriend,” Fabbri said. “It definitely gives you something to do to kill time during the day. That, and going on the golf course and playing some tennis.
“I’m doing as much as I can to where we’re used to (conditioning-wise) every day.”
Fabbri was acquired by the Wings Nov. 6 in exchange for forward Jacob de la Rose, in what many have called general manager Steve Yzerman’s best trade this season.
Fabbri, 24, a former first-round draft pick in St. Louis, had fallen out of the Blues’ overall picture after the knee surgeries and had only played nine games this season before getting traded.
The Wings, though at the exact opposite of the Stanley Cup-winning Blues, offered Fabbri an opportunity to recharge his career.
And Fabbri pretty much did so, supplying much needed offense to the Red Wings.
“It was definitely frustrating,” said Fabbri of the start of this season in St. Louis. “If you ask any player that might not be getting in every game or getting moved up in the lineup, everyone wants to play and contribute. My time in St. Louis was great, a lot of good memories there and I left on good terms, (but) I was very happy with how the season played out.
“Getting that opportunity in Detroit, and it’s something I’ve wanted for a little bit now, to just play again, and I wanted to be a regular player again and I knew when I was given an opportunity I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.”
Fabbri had 15 goals and 17 assists in 61 games with the Wings, where late in the season, coach Jeff Blashill switched Fabbri, at times, back to center.
It’s the position Fabbri had played his entire career until getting to the NHL, where the injuries forced him to a wing.
Now that he’s healthy and his skating is all the way back, Fabbri would enjoy playing more center.
“I was a center all the way up to my first year in the league,” Fabbri said. “Center is my natural position. I’ve always enjoyed the responsibility. I did that for most of my life. It was nice to get back to it and play a few games; it was fun.
“I feel I can utilize my speed, skating with the puck with speed in the middle of the ice, taking faceoffs – it’s all something I’d love to do. It’s something we’ll see again in training camp whether we’ll try it again.”
Fabbri will be a restricted free agent this offseason. But he hasn’t hid his excitement and preference of staying with the Wings, despite the rebuild.
“That’s something out of my control right now,” said Fabbri of negotiations, which have yet to take place during this strange season. “Everything has been great since the first day I came to Detroit. It’s a great organization, great group of guys, a great opportunity here, so it’s definitely a place I want to be and play for as long as I can.
“I was able to rejuvenate my career and they gave me a chance. I couldn’t be happier.”
It wasn’t easy going from a Stanley Cup championship team to a team at the bottom of the standings. But Fabbri believes this season will benefit the Wings going forward.
“Everyone has to go through learning experiences and these are the things that will make this team stronger down the line,” Fabbri said. “We’ve been through it before and we’ll know how to handle it. The mindset in the room never changed game to game or day to day. There was always a readiness to come in and work, to get better every day.”