A strong and reliable defenceman, British-Canadian Rob Wilson spent 16 years in Britain, mostly with Sheffield Steelers and Newcastle Vipers, and played an important role on Great Britain’s hard-working teams in the 2000s.
He skippered the Steel City side for four seasons, 19962000, when he was a key man during their remarkable run of seven major trophies.
For eight seasons from 2002-03 he played, captained, coached and part-owned the Vipers. When they won the Elite League Play-offs in 2005-06, he was voted Coach of the Year, and he was part of a threeman group that ploughed a substantial sum into the club in its last five years in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep them alive.
‘Willy’ was also an influential presence on the British national team for which he was capped 34 times in six World Championships at Pool B or Division One level between 1998 and 2004. On Chris McSorley’s squads, he was voted the tournament’s Best Defenceman in the 2001 World Championships, and made it on to the All-Star team a year later when GB won a silver medal in Slovenia.
An honest defender, he took only 32 penalty minutes for GB, and though not a native Brit ‘he played like he had the colours of the Union Jack flowing through his veins’, as one reporter noted at the time. He assisted head coach Paul Thompson when he took over in 2007, and in 2011 when Britain won silver in Division One in Kiev.
Rob first played here with Swindon Wildcats in 1988-89 but was reportedly unfit and overweight and was not offered a new contract. After a spell kicking around the North American minor leagues, he decided to try his luck here again and signed for the Steelers in 1994-95.
His first campaign in Newcastle was 200001 when his steady play was one of the few bright spots in the short, tempestuous life of the Jesters. But he’d probably rather forget the time in 2001-02 he spent with Gary Cowan’s short-lived, cash-strapped Manchester Storm. After leaving Newcastle in 2010, he was head coach of Italian second division team HC Neumarkt Egna (Wild Goose).
The Canadian with Scottish parents first made his mark on the sport in his home country with junior clubs Sudbury Wolves and Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins but never made it to the Show.
In a postscript, he was voted Coach of the Year in the German DEL in 2016-17 and in May 2018 was appointed head coach of his old Canadian junior club, Peterborough Petes.
Rob Wilson was born in Toronto on 18 July 1968. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.