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Rest in Peace, Robin Brownlee

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Jason Gregor
1 month ago
This is very difficult to type.
My good friend and colleague, Robin Brownlee, passed away suddenly this morning at his home. He was 65 years young, and his heart gave out. Thankfully he was surrounded by his loving wife, Analyn, and his two sons, Michael and Sam.
Robin had a long and successful career covering sports since 1983. He came to Edmonton in 1989 to write for the Edmonton Journal, then moved to the Edmonton Sun, before joining Oilersnation in 2007. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Robin for the past 15 years, both here at the Nation and he co-hosted my radio on show on TSN 1260 and now on Sports 1440.
Robin was a big man. He could be gruff, but he also was incredibly loving and gentle. Most of our memorable conversations were about family, not sports. He had some great sports stories, but what really made him excited and happy was talking about his family. Meeting Analyn Augustin was life-changing for Robin as a man. It led to him becoming a father, and he was a great husband and father. His priorities changed when he became a father, and for the better. Robin used to be driven to chase down a lead or break a story, and he was very good at it, but becoming a father later in life, at age 48, changed his priorities.
He admitted at times it was difficult not being on the beat daily, but he’d always tell me he was much happier being able to be home and be around his boys. He introduced Analyn, Sam and Michael to his love of cars and music. He and Michael shared a love for music. Sam was really into basketball, and in the past few years, he’d dominate his old man on the court. Robin laughs about how he could see the day coming when Sam would school him. Many fathers do, and Robin looked forward to it.
He told me one of his greatest joys in life was just watching Sam play basketball. He shared the same birthday as Sam, August 16th, and Robin wrote many articles about Sam being a miracle baby. You can read this one when Sam was five and this one when Sam turned 12, and Robin 60, is great as well. Mainly because I love the picture of the two of them. It exudes love.


Robin’s love for his family became his driving force. He still loved sports, and writing, but it took a back seat to his family.
I have so many great memories of Ruben Bronte. That is what I called Robin, ever since he shared the story of his media credentials in Toronto having the wrong name. “I’d been covering the NHL for over a decade and had been to Toronto many times, and it was humbling when I picked up my credentials and my name on the pass wasn’t Robin Brownlee, but instead Ruben Bronte,” he laughed.
I laughed hard. And still do. I’ve called him Ruebs or Bronte for over a decade, and he loved the nickname. Listeners and readers would see him at the grocery store and yell out, “Hey Bronte” or “Ruebs, I enjoyed your article.” It made him laugh. I will miss his deep hearty laugh. Gawd, we had lots of laughs on the radio.
Watching him and Bob Stauffer race, and I’m using that term very loosely, down the sidelines at Eskimos training camp many years ago, is still one of the funniest things I’ve seen. Two large men in their 40s rumbling down the sidelines to see who was faster still brings a smile to my face.
Writing that he is gone still seems surreal. He was on our show on Monday and set to join us again today, but he had other plans. Robin was scheduled to have surgery next month on a tumour in his ear. It had impacted his hearing and his balance. Thankfully the tumour was benign, but the location was close to his brain, and he was very concerned about the surgery. He and I spoke often about it, and I was always impressed by his courage and strength. He always brought every conversation back to his family. He wanted to have the surgery so they could do more. The past few months, he didn’t feel confident going out because he didn’t feel steady on his feet. He was looking forward to doing things again.
Sadly, that won’t happen.
What I will miss most about Ruebs are his random notes. He’d rarely, if ever, text me, instead he’d send me a DM on Twitter/X. It would be a note about an interview he liked, but mainly it would be comments about something I’d said or written about fatherhood. Always complimentary and heartfelt. He’d always send me a note on Father’s Day. Always. Every year. I wish I had sent him more notes. He really was a caring and gentle man, who cared deeply about family.
Robin didn’t have the best childhood. His father was only 18 when Robin was born. He could barely take care of himself, and he wasn’t a good father and husband. Robin shared the story over the years in his article about Sam, but what I respected most about Robin, was that he broke the cycle. Having his father not be a good man to his mother and kids, and then leave them hurt Robin deeply. Like most people, he held it in for many years, and the more I got to know Robin over the years, the more I understood why he used to be a bit ornery.
But when he became a father, he chose love, tenderness and patience. He loved Sam, Michael and Analyn immensely. And I loved reading his articles about them. He was a gifted wordsmith, with a good sense of humour.
Robin wrote this when Sam was five.
“I’m convinced Sam is going to be a brilliant student, a popular kid and, one day, some manner of money-making machine or a big-time contributor to society, maybe both, when he grows up. What parent doesn’t want and hope for that? There’s every possibility, though, he’ll fall short of that expectation. He might be a slacker, a sportswriter even.
While I’m waiting to find out, I’ve dealt with a record number of time-outs during junior-kindergarten. It got to the point this year that it was news when Sam didn’t get a time out for failing to listen or playing too rough. The best laugh a group of parents waiting outside the classroom got this year was when Sam bounded out the door and proclaimed proud-as-you-please, ‘Dad, dad, I didn’t get a time out today.’ Guffaws.”
He also wasn’t shy to share his feelings with readers about the challenges and fears of being a dad when he wrote this.
“People often draw parallels between sports and real life, some of them a reach, I suppose. This might qualify as that, but when I look back at the past five years, I see common themes between being Sam’s dad and the relationship fans in this city have with the Oilers. For me, those themes include things like expectations, patience and something I’ll simply call enjoying the moment.
Being new to fatherhood, I didn’t have any expectations because I didn’t have a template to go by. I was so late to the dad game — most of my friends are grandparents now and I wasn’t exactly paying attention when their children were toddling about — I’ve had to learn as I go. That process continues. You ask friends. You read. You fake it. Best-guess stuff a lot of the time.
Likewise, I’m not convinced there’s any template for GM Steve Tambellini to go by when it comes to building a successful hockey team, despite all the talk about the Chicago Model or the Detroit Model. Concepts? Trends? Sure. But there’s a lot of variables.
Might I get it right with Sam? I hope so, although I’m put off that I still haven’t figured out what prompted him to kick me in the groin that time at the checkout stand in the supermarket. I don’t expect that it’ll happen again, but I can’t say for sure.
Sort of like Chris Pronger announcing he’d rather get gone after the 2006 Stanley Cup run or Sheldon Souray lighting Tambellini and the Oilers on fire two springs ago, no? I recovered considerably quicker than the Oilers, now five years out of the playoffs, have.
A good kid, like building a team, isn’t paint-by-numbers.”
He was brilliant at connecting sports and parenthood. I will miss reading his articles on sports, but mainly his one about cars, fatherhood and Sam.

WE WILL MISS YOU RUEBS…

I had a hard time containing my emotions when Analyn phoned me this morning. She was so strong and the pain in her voice was deep. She and Robin had a deep bond, and I was reminded of the Nazareth song, Love Hurts.
Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and marks
Any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts
Ooh, ooh, love hurts
The deeper the love, the more pain we leave behind. Analyn, Sam and Michael, I know you are hurting, and I hope the void is filled by all the wonderful, loving memories you have of Robin. He loved you so much, and he knew you all loved him.
He will be missed.
Ruebs, I will miss your big melon, your hearty laugh and your random, but very meaningful, messages of support and love.
Rest in peace, my friend.

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