Rob Ray, retired National Hockey League tough guy who played
many years with the Buffalo Sabres (and a short stint with the
Ottawa Senators), had a reputation of being hard-nosed and tough.
If anybody took a cheap shot at one of his teammates, he was the
enforcer to set the record straight. Off the ice, though, he’s a
great guy with a big heart. Recognized for his community service,
he donates time and energy to charities around western New York.
And much of it goes unnoticed.
The most recent case in point was when I contacted him to take a
seven-year-old girl fishing. Gina Hahn, a second grader at West
Street School in Sanborn, was the lucky winner of a Rob Ray fishing
trip through the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey derby. Each year, Ray
donates his time to go fishing with a youngster. And more often
than not, it’s the father of the winner who sits there in awe and
has a better time fishing with a local legend.
Trying to organize such a trip is not often easy. First, Ray has
to fit it into his schedule. Next, it’s a local charter captain.
Then the weather needs to be factored in. Finally, the young girl’s
schedule needs to be manipulated. Hahn’s memorable fishing outing
was originally supposed to be a charter fishing trip out of Olcott
with Capt. Bob Cinelli. A hard Northeast wind for the day was going
to make things mighty uncomfortable for a seven-year-old girl. Plan
B was immediately put into place. The Lower Niagara River with
Capt. Frank Campbell was a good second option.
As luck would have it, the rain held off and they caught plenty
of smallmouth bass during the three-hour trip. The trip was a
success in more ways than one. Then Ray was off, back home to his
wife and two children. He actually has a seven-year-old daughter of
his own at home, so he was familiar with what he would be up
Had we not been able to get out on this particular day, it would
have been tough to squeeze an outing into Ray’s schedule – he was
getting ready to head to New Mexico on an elk hunt. Ray is quite an
outdoorsman, both hunting and fishing. I’ve shared a goose blind
with him, as well as many a boat trip pursuing salmon, trout and
bass. He enjoys it with a passion. And don’t make a mistake or an
error in judgment. Ray is all over that, quick to criticize for a
laugh or two. We are lucky to have Rob Ray around. He’s a nice guy.
Just don’t let anyone know.