Nick Robertson’s California dream is coming true

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LOS ANGELES — This is Nick Robertson’s rookie season in the NHL — but a goal Saturday wouldn’t be his first under the bright lights of the Kings’ arena.

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His mom, Mercedes, reminded him of that before the Leafs arrived in California, an emotional homecoming for the winger, who hadn’t played here since he was eight.

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“She sent me two things,” Nick said, “a video of me scoring at Staples Center on (the Kings’) halftime when the little kids went out to play, and a picture of the first team I actually played for, the Pasadena Maples. Sheets .

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“It was the same Leafs jersey, but it said ‘Pasadena’ over ‘Toronto.’ I was five or six. So it’s funny that I’m back with the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

Robertson and older brother Jason of the Dallas Stars reflect the changing demographics of the NHL. Of Filipino descent on the Mercedes side, Nick is the third California-born Leaf in recent years with Auston Matthews and Trevor Moore traded to the Kings in the Jack Campbell/Kyle Clifford deal.

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Robertson joined Jason in organized hockey before the entire family, led by oldest brother Michael and sister Bri, moved to Michigan to continue their sporting pursuits. Jason was already on his way to the NHL, while Nick was closer in age to Bri to play in the same age group in California.

Their family had season tickets to the Kings, Nick made his mark in the silver and black, with up-and-comers like Wayne Simmonds.

“I remember watching practice at the Toyota Center,” Nick said. “There was a lot on me and we played there too.” I remember Simmer and his face was there so playing with him (now) is pretty cool.

“I didn’t really have a favorite player, I like the Kings, the jersey and they were my hometown team.

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Unlike the thousands of Toronto-area fans who grew up and grew old anticipating the Stanley Cup, Robertson reveled in two in LA in 2012 and ’14, albeit watching from abroad.

Simmonds was traded at the time, but Clifford was in both of those championships.

“I remember Cliffy assisting them and the cups were big deals and meant a lot to me.

While coach Sheldon Keefe’s lineup for the Kings on Saturday is unconfirmed, Simmonds could return after the game away from San Jose. Clifford has an injured shoulder and is out.

Robertson, dogged by his own injury list after the Leafs first picked him, 53rdrd overall in 2019, started this season with the Marlies. He was then called upon in dramatic fashion with a two-goal night in overtime over Jason and the Stars.

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He is now dressed for success as a left wing in a lineup with John Tavares and William Nylander. The only difficult part of Saturday’s game for him may be handling all the ticket requests from his extended clan.

“Probably eight or 10 people come and then there’s Anaheim (Sunday’s road game). I’m splitting the games half and half to make it easier on everyone.”

Nick had been the star of the family since the day he arrived three months early – and on 9/11 of all dates. He needed a risky four-needle procedure to get oxygen to his brain to compensate for his underdeveloped lungs.

Mercedes was also part of a large contingent that immigrated to California when she was just three years old, wishing to escape life under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But that meant her dad lost his job as a lawyer and had to hold down several jobs, including a taxi driver, to get his American degree.

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This instilled a hard work ethic in her sons, while Nick’s father Hugh was instrumental in getting the boys into far-reaching hockey tournaments and Bri into elite martial arts competitions.

That’s all running through Nick’s mind when the Leafs get here.

“It’s huge, I’m definitely excited to play in California. I also played a little bit in San Jose, but LA is definitely the biggest.”

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Prominent NHL players born in California

Auston Matthews (San Ramon)

Brooks Orpik (San Francisco)

Lee Norwood (Oakland)

Jason Robertson (Arcadia)

Nick Robertson (Arcadia)

Jason Zucker (Newport Beach)

Matthew Nieto (Long Beach)

Trevor Moore (Thousand Oaks)

Kevan Miller (Los Angeles)

Thatcher Demko, San Diego

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