When Brett Landon took over the Return of the Robin nine years ago, he stopped playing hockey and started listening to his wife.
For years, Landon played hockey in the Return of the Robin. Before he played hockey, he watched this father play hockey in the annual rite-of-spring tournament, which started in 1981 and this year runs from Thursday to Saturday at Graham Arena and other hockey venues in the area.
Nine years ago, Landon became an organizer. Six years ago, he took over operations. With Landon in charge, the annual hockey tournament has slowly turned into a spring festival.
“Brett is trying to expand the Return of the Robin from just a hockey tourney in to a weekend full of a variety of events to draw more than just us puck heads,” said Bob Sikkink, who has been an organizer of the Return of the Robin for decades.
This year, along with hockey for the puck heads, there is a run, a DJ battle on Friday night and a Hairball concert on Saturday, as well a bunch of new kids events on Saturday morning.
“When I took over, I got the credit, but I also heard the complaints, including from my wife,” Landon said. “People wanted activities outside of the hockey tournament. I kept hearing from a lot of wives that not everyone like hockey.”
The complaints coincided with Landon’s goal of increasing the number of teams in the tournament. As the field grew from 32 to 34 teams in the early 1980s to more than 75 in recent years, so did the attendance at the event-ending awards banquet. Suddenly, hotel ballrooms were too small for the hundreds that showed up for the final night party. Landon moved the banquet to Graham Arena.
“While hotels were technically too small, Graham Arena was too big,” Landon said. “We needed to add something, and I’d always wanted to add a band, so we brought in Hairball. They performed after the banquet.”
Hairball returns for a sixth straight year on Saturday. New this year is a Friday night EDM (electronic dance music) “Feel The Drop” DJ Battle. Tickets to each concert are $15 in advance.
Back for fifth straight year is the Return of the Robin Run. Landon said the Saturday morning run has grown to where it rivals the hockey tournament in popularity. After holding 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer run/walks in years past, this spring, organizers have added a half-marathon and kids run, which starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
For people who don’t want to run all over Rochester to have some fun, organizers have started a bean bag tournament. More than 60 teams have already registered to participate.
Proceeds from all of the events go to Fitch-Dickman Foundation, which donates money to youth sports or family members of longtime tournament supporters. The Return of the Robin has collected close to $30,000 in the past nine years. This spring, proceeds will go to three families affected by cancer. The fundraising slogan is “Puck Cancer.”
As the hockey tournament has grown, so has the need for more staff and volunteers. Companies have been hired to coordinate the Return of the Robin Run, which cuts into the money raised.
“The profit margin is getting smaller and smaller because the event keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Landon said. “It’s so big now that we can’t just do it on our own time anymore.”
Organizers still want to raise money for the foundation, named after the original architects of tournament, so a number of fundraisers are being held throughout the year, including golf tournaments, hockey tournaments, bike rides and others.
“Our goal is to have 16 different events throughout the year to raise money for the foundation,” Landon said.
The Return of the Robin might still called a hockey tournament, but in reality is a year-long sports festival.
Registration and ticket information can be found at www.returnoftherobin.com.
If you go
- What: The Return of the Robin hockey tournament
- When: Thursday through Saturday
- Where: Mostly at Graham Arena, 1570 Fairgrounds Ave. SE, Rochester. Some hockey games played at the Rochester Recreation Center and Four Seasons Arena in Kasson.
- Admission: Hockey is free. Events vary in cost. More information at www.returnoftherobin.com.