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American Thanksgiving is among the more important days in American culture, but particularly in the Robertson household, as Thanksgiving Day back in 2001 was the first time Nick Robertson was able to leave the hospital and brought home by his parents after being born three months premature and nearly dying at birth, were it not for a risky procedure that saved his life by allowing oxygen to reach his brain and lungs.

The significance of this story is not in Nick's presence in Northville, Michigan with his family on this special day, but rather his presence in Toronto as he foregoes a delicious meal with the most important people in his life, in order to pursue his dream of being a full-time NHLer in 2020-21.

“If I would have a choice, it would be with my whole family back home in Michigan with the snow,” said Robertson. “We’d just have maybe like there’s Honey Baked ham … that we like. Just being around family, friends, girlfriends, all that stuff; bring them over and just kind of enjoy ourselves. That would be my fantasy Thanksgiving.”

Robertson left the US in May to head to Toronto in his pursuit of a roster spot with the Leafs heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a spot which Robertson eventually did claim.

Despite being eliminated from the playoffs in August, Robertson made the tough decision to stay in Canada to prepare for the upcoming season, remaining focused on staying in game shape and keeping the roster spot that he had earned during the playoffs.

All things considered, Robertson performed quite amicably for the Leafs during the postseason, given the circumstances. The 19-year-old even found the back of the net for his first goal in his NHL career during the series against Columbus.

“I think I did pretty well,” said Robertson, who scored a goal and averaged 12 minutes per night. “I think you can tell I was a little frantic or nervous, but that’s to be expected given the position we were in. You know we were in playoffs and I was playing the same team over and over and over again and with all this COVID stuff, too — no fans — like it was just a weird type of hockey.

“I think I’ve adapted to it now and I think the confidence is up there for myself again.”

Robertson stands a very reasonable chance of locking up a spot on the Leafs' roster, given his reputation of being relentless on the puck and his nose for the net - especially after showcasing what he had to offer in the postseason and not looking out of place on an NHL rink. That aside, Robertson knows there is plenty of work ahead and his willingness to sacrifice the time that he would have otherwise used to have a filling Thanksgiving dinner with his family in order to keep working toward his goal of being a full-time NHLer is evidence of that.

“I know it’s hard being away from home, but it’s kind of a blessing in disguise because this is an experience that not many 19-year-olds can have before they step in the league,” he said.

“It’s a grind, for sure, but it’s all for a reason.”
NOVEMBER 26, 2020  (12H19)