• Jenn Connor

Staying Connected With Toronto Rock's Rob Hellyer

Rob Hellyer led the Toronto Rock in scoring with 32 goals at the time of the NLL suspension.

It may be the understatement of literally the century –- these are indeed trying times. And as we all continue to cope with the tragedy wrought by COVID-19, stories of perseverance, dedication, and passion give us hope, reminding us to never give up no matter what obstacle may lie before us.  

Toronto Rock forward Rob Hellyer is not a stranger to fighting back from adversity. Fresh off an outstanding 2016 campaign that saw the young forward post career highs in points (113), goals (45), and assists (68), Hellyer suffered a torn ACL while playing in the summer for the Oakville Rock. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2017 season. Staring down a potentially career threatening injury,  Hellyer came back strong in 2018, enjoying a 30 goal, 93 point season, and hasn’t looked back. This season, at the time of the suspension in play, Hellyer was leading the Rock in scoring with 32 goals and 56 points in just 11 games.

Like most professional lacrosse players, Hellyer holds down a day job, working as a real estate agent for Century 21 through B.J. Roth Realty Ltd. Brokerage. Meeting the physical and mental demands of being a professional lacrosse player while having to maintain the high levels of performance demanded in the real estate profession simply speaks to the passion Rob Hellyer has for the sport.

I was fortunate to have the chance to chat online with the Lion’s Head, Ontario native to talk about his career, how he is managing through the crisis, and his thoughts on the future of the NLL. 

Where are you staying during this lockdown and how are you passing the time?

I live in Barrie with my wife and dog. I am also a real estate agent so that is still keeping me busy even with all the craziness going on. So between the multiple walks a day with our dog, who is really enjoying the quarantine since we are home, and handling the real estate business, I am still busy enough. 

Do you watch Netflix or play video games? If so, what are some of your recommendations?

I have never been a video game player actually. But my wife and I have been watching Ozark with the rest of the world. We’ve heard Waco is also a good one so I think we’ll check that out eventually. 

Who or what inspired you to play lacrosse?

I was at the beach one day with a few of my cousins and one of them had a stick. I was around 7 years old. The next summer my dad took me to a first timer’s camp and neither of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into. I’m pretty sure I took my whole hockey bag, a pair of running shoes, and my lacrosse stick not knowing what equipment I needed. After that day, I fell in love with the game and like they say, the rest is history. 

How have you liked playing with the Rock and what is your most cherished memory so far?

Playing with The Rock has been a dream of mine since I found the game. Watching Colin Doyle, Bob Watson, and so many other guys was incredible for a little kid from Lion’s Head. Being able to play in front of family and friends every game is hard to put into words when you make it to the highest level. It’s hard to top the championship we won in my first year at 18. Being able to celebrate with my whole family on the floor and in the room after is something I will never forget. 

How do you like Toronto and what are some of your favourite spots to hang out?

I love Toronto. I’ve always wanted to live there full time but it has never worked out for a number of reasons. Maybe one day I will be able to talk my wife into a condo but as of right now, that won’t be happening. A few spots we really enjoy  going to would be the Amsterdam Brewery, it’s right on the water and is great in the summer. The Distillery District is a really cool spot, Lee might have the best salad I’ve ever had (Singapore I think it is), really any restaurant/bar with a good atmosphere that isn’t a chain, we will check out. 

Toronto Rock games are exciting and great family entertainment. What are your thoughts on the NLL in general and the future of the league once the current crisis is behind us?

I think the new commissioner has done a great job at bringing in new ownership groups that are committed to the long vision of the league. We’ve seen in the past that you can’t rush into a new team too early without really doing your due diligence. The last thing anyone wants is for a new team to come into the league and they are gone a year or 2 later. I think everyone in the front office has learned from those experiences and has done a great job with the new ownership and

teams they have brought in. The future looks really exciting for the NLL. 

You were one of the few players to play in the NLL as an 18-year-old. How important was getting pro experience at such a young age in developing your skills and confidence?

Looking back on it now, I think it was both good and bad coming in so young. It was obviously great to come in and win a championship right away with some of the best players that have ever played. It also made me grow up in a hurry. I come  from a town of 500 people and all of a sudden I am playing in front of 15,000 fans, travelling all over North America with my eyes wide open. I think I might have benefitted from coming into the league at a bit of an older age and more playing experience, but I also learned a lot from watching the game when I wasn’t in the lineup as well. In hindsight, I’m glad I came in at 18 and won a championship, but I wouldn’t be quick to tell another player to do the same unless they knew what they were getting themselves into.  

Do you have any final thoughts or shoutouts as we all look to get through this crisis and back to enjoying sports and life as we know it?

Obviously the main concern is everyone’s health. I really hope we can all get back to normality as soon as possible, but as for right now, we need to listen to our health professionals and stay home and healthy. We will get back to our normal lives a lot quicker if we listen and follow all precautions. Once this is all over, I think I speak for the whole Toronto Rock team when I say we can’t wait to get back on the floor playing the game we love in front of all of our fans. 

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