For years the Robitaille family traveled all around the world experiencing different cultures and adventures together, adding new members along the way. Now they are embarking on a new chapter in their lives right here in Ottawa.
Recently I chatted with my long-time friend Joanne Robitaille – the CEO of the family. She’s filled with fabulous stories from her travels and is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Here is our interview as we discuss the past, present and future of her families hockey life.
Aside from Canada, your husband Randy has played all over the United States, in Russia, Switzerland and the Ukraine. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Aww – you made me blush. ;) xo
Yes, we’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel far and wide. About 3 years into my relationship with my husband, I started working with the airlines, which allowed us to see one another much more frequently. It also provided me, at 22 years of age, the opportunity to prepare myself for the life I would eventually embark on with my family.
I certainly took advantage of the amazing benefits provided to me during my years with Air Canada and USAir. I traveled with my parents through many countries in Europe, and took some pretty fun trips with girlfriends. I still laugh, because Randy was a rookie in the NHL by then, and I would book my overnights as a flight attendant in the city he was in and he had a roommate and curfew but I didn’t. Ha!
So yes – early on, we had made our way throughout most of North America and the better part of Europe. The teams my husband played with or places I’ve lived from early beginning until just last year include: Providence Rhode Island, Boston, Nashville, Milwaukee, Manchester, L.A, New York, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Zurich and Lugano – Switzerland, Yaroslavl – Russia and Donetsk – Ukraine. Plus all the countless towns, villages and cities we’ve been lucky enough to have seen.
Before having our children, I used to follow the bus with other girlfriends and wives, when Randy played in the AHL and we’d have a couple hours before each game to tour. Lol – the good ol’ days.
What are the biggest style and cultural differences you found between the North American and European lifestyle.
My initial reaction to the European culture was that the people are very laid back. They remember to enjoy the little things in life: fresh food, long lunches and family meals. On a Sunday the city is closed down – you see NO ONE. They are enjoying their families and being grateful for all they have. The hustle stops and they refuel.
From all the places you’ve lived, where was the most difficult adjustment for you and your family?
I would have to say Russia was the most shocking step for me. The team we were with at the beginning of the 2007 season was the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv – whose families will be forever in our hearts. The hockey club as a whole was phenomenal, but the city is an old industrial town, and it was far from an ideal environment being pregnant with our third and the boys being toddlers.
Cole was 15 months old at the time, and he had become very ill. We lived a six hour drive away from Moscow, and they wanted to admit him into the hospital there. I looked at my husband, and said “I can be at CHEO in 16 hours.” and I was. My brother picked us up at the airport, and was shocked at how ill my son was.
Randy ended up playing with the Ottawa Senators that year, which was a dream come true for us to have the experience of playing in our home town.
Everything happens for a reason.
How have your children benefited from being exposed to all those different cultures?
First off just having had the opportunity, through their dad’s hockey career, to have walked through castles in Italy and had lunch at the top of a Swiss Alp before tobogganing down. I mean – that’s storybook stuff!
My girls are reminded through stories of many things, because they were still young. But my boys, however, remember being in Italian preschool and watching their Dad represent team Canada over the Christmas holidays.
When we lived on a mountain in Lugano, often after dinner I’d put the girls in the double stroller, the boys would use scooters, and we’d stroll through the cobblestone village and all the old stone buildings. My kids would wave to this little old Italian woman who always seemed to be in her window waiting to see them. I would say wave to the Nonna – the simplicity of those years was wonderful for them.
My kids eat ANYTHING, they speak four languages and appreciate meeting people from every culture. They seem to have a greater knowledge of the size of our planet and where countries are situated.
My boys enjoy telling people they were born in other countries. Cole thinks he’s half American. Lol. And Hunter, hopes to use his rights to play hockey there as an non-import. So cute!
I feel my kids learned at a young age to adapt easily to many different situations, being brought to them unexpectedly. I’ve made a point, as their Mom, to have them view our frequent moves as positive – always. Not gonna lie – sometimes it was a mommy mask. It was my job to take on the stresses of it all, and allow them to simply see it as an adventure. And it certainly was!
I love New York City – so many things to do and see – plus the fashion options are endless. Of all the places you’ve lived or visited, what city had the best shopping?
Obviously, New York City is high on the list. Although in the 2005 lockout year we played in Zurich, Switzerland, the city is engraved in my mind as the best place ever to shop. Truth is I was pregnant, and limited as to what I could wear, but had a good friend who was there with me that season, and had tremendous fashion sense, so I lived and shopped vicariously through her.
I have always wanted to visit Switzerland – especially because of all the cultural influences from the bordering countries. What are some of your favorite memories from living there?
Our first child – my son Hunter was born there, so that would be my biggest memory of my time there. The doctors and nurses, as well as, the hospitals in general are all beyond amazing. I can’t even begin to explain.
Living in the German part was tough, we were deep in a village where there wasn’t much chance of finding anyone to speak English. That being said, the organization we were with that year the Zurich Lions was phenomenal in helping us through the transition. The office manager Nicole brought me shopping for baby furniture and drove me to doctors appointments, when I had no clue how to get there.
The people I met stay close to my heart. We’ve been really blessed to have known so many kind hearted loving people through our years traveling – that’s the cake.
Little cafés, amazing restaurants, breathtaking lakes, underground wine cellars, fashion shows and most importantly watching my man live out his dream are the icing though. ;)
Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering a few personal questions?
Not at all.
Do you have a daily beauty routine?
Well – as I get older, I’ve had to start being a little more high maintenance with skin care. Truth is, other than washing and moisturizing, there is never really been a “daily” routine, but I’m slowly implementing consistency along with eye care as well.
Let’s hear some of your favorites…
Piece of clothing you own: Randy bought me a jacket in New York City one year. It’s purple inside which is my favourite color, and it is just so simple and classic, something I never see being unable to wear. The fact that he picked it out makes me happy too. ;)
Place to shop for clothes: Oh it has varied through the years depending on where I’ve lived and also if I was a mom yet! Lol. Tough to splurge on an outfit that will be dirty in 10 minutes.
I’m pretty casual with my clothes – I don’t really care about the name brand. I like to wear what makes me feel comfortable at the time. I’ve been told I dress “young” which I understand, but I still feel young. I may stop wearing my skinny ripped jeans when my girls borrow them.
Hair product: Rockaholic Dry Shampoo. I hate doing my hair – its thick and takes an hour to dry. So, when I wash it and actually take the time to do it, I want the extra day!
Make up must haves: If I were only able to have one thing – it would be my mascara – which is by Benefit and its called “They’re Real” I assure you mine are. I’ve never done anything to my eyelashes and refuse to wear fake ones. People ask me all the time if mine are real. But that being said – I LOVE my eyelash curler.
I’m also a huge fan of the Arbonne CC Cream. I’ve never worn foundation because I have freckles and don’t want to cover them. Well – this stuff is genius.
How would you describe your personal style?
I wear Joe Fresh, cause its cute and I can find it while I get dinner but, I also own Prada. Truth Nat – unless I’m going out somewhere – I’m either in my gym clothes or jeans. I’m lucky – even after all these years, the one man I care to impress still prefers me in a baseball hat and running shoes.
I was always athletic growing up, was at the gym as gymnast a lot and I only ever really started “dressing up” when I started working. My girlie side came out – fiercely! Can’t really remember our style in high school – do you? Ohhh the hair!
If money was no object – what designers would be in your dream closet?
Hmmm. See – I don’t even know. Lol. I’d just take the cash and find what looks good on me.
What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?
I love getting massages! I always try to keep my nails pretty – makes me feel good and I’d never say know to a blowout – EVER.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
In one of those huts you see in those pictures – off the coast of Bali surrounded by turquoise water.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.” Marilyn Monroe
Finally give us three words that describe you best.
Loyal. Fun. Spiritual.
How did the idea for Rink Eye come together?
We always knew we’d still have hockey as a big part of our lives, even after Randy retired as a player.
About 6 years ago we were chatting about this hockey centre that some retired NHL guys were running in Minnesota. The more we delved into it, the more interesting it became. Ottawa had nothing like it. And, we certainly saw a need for it, having two boys in competitive hockey. Randy representing players as an agent, as well as, offering many on ice hours – it is also serving as a home base for that.
Tell us a little bit about Rink Eye and the programs you offer.
It’s a hockey player’s haven. An indoor training facility with six shooting lanes, a synthetic ice rink, a virtual sports screen and party/boardroom.
The idea is to provide, all under one roof, everything a hockey player could need or want. We put emphasis on taking everyone’s game to the next level in a fun yet professional atmosphere.
For specific packages and programs, visit our website www.rinkeye.com.
What are you looking most forward to in this new chapter of your family’s life?
Having my family together and watching our kids grow, watching my husband coach and guide kids that share his passion for the game and finally being back where our roots are – long enough to reconnect with old friends. xo
Robitaille Family: Randy and Joanne with their four children Hunter, Cole, Mallory and Scarlett.