Carter Robertson is the type who gives. The 23-year-old Rush defenseman is a Player Ambassador for Hockey Gives Blood, a Canadian nonprofit organization that uses the hockey community to create awareness about the importance of donating blood, stem cells, plasma, organs and tissues.
“I kind of just wanted to do something more when I was in my junior career,” Robertson said.
Robertson became a Player Ambassador in 2018, joining the organization that was founded in the wake of the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in April of that year. The crash resulted in 16 people dead and 13 injured, the majority of whom were players for the Broncos. At the time, Robertson was playing for the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL and was just 18 years old. He saw the resulting public push of the importance of donating blood and felt that maybe he could help.
There was a family element for Robertson too. His paternal great-grandfather was a nurse in World War II and experienced an urgent need for blood up close and personal and in extreme circumstances.
“He was actually supposed to be a mechanic for all of the trucks and stuff, but his papers got lost and he ended up as a nurse,” Robertson said. “So he donated a lot of blood during the war. And my dad had talked to me a lot about that when I was younger, and that was kind of always in the back of my brain.”
Robertson first donated blood himself following the conclusion of the 2018-19 hockey season. He doesn’t donate during the season because of the rigors of professional hockey and the level to which he needs his body to recover and perform during a 72-game season, but he regularly shares the messages from Hockey Gives Blood on his Instagram and Twitter pages. And he donates as often as possible during the offseason.
“There are a couple of people in the organization, I’ll reach out to them or they’ll reach out to me to ask to post a couple of different things,” Robertson said. “To just try and use my platform to reach out to other people.”
Since being acquired by the Rush in a trade with the Norfolk Admirals in November, Robertson has appeared in 37 games and recorded four goals and 12 assists. He leads the team with a +12 plus/minus rating and is +16 during his time with Rapid City. He is one of 76 Player Ambassadors listed on Hockey Gives Blood’s website. There are players from the junior ranks all the way up to the NHL and the PHF, the top women’s professional hockey league.
“We’re just there to be an extra voice for them,” Robertson said. “Just saying that we’ve gone to donate and that you should too.”
The Rush regularly partner with Vitalant to host blood drives at The Monument and will do so from 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. on Thursday. The team is providing a pair of tickets to anybody who donates during this drive, the third that the Rush have held this season.
Robertson stresses that there is a shortage of blood and blood donors, not only during the winter months or when a disaster occurs but at all times. Hockey Gives Blood is partnered with Canadian Blood Services, which notes that Canada needs 100,000 new blood donors per year and that someone in their nation requires a blood transfusion every 60 seconds. According to Vitalant, every day in the United States, patients in hospitals, surgical centers and emergency treatment facilities need approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells, 5,000 units of platelets and 6,500 units of plasma.
When he finished his junior career in the OHL, Robertson passed the information about Hockey Gives Blood to one of his teammates. And it’s clear that he has started a trend. Robertson’s desire to do more led to multiple Owen Sound players joining him as ambassadors, and now the majority of teams in the OHL are represented.
“It’s just kind of from one guy to the next,” Robertson said. “I was one of the first guys to do it around the league, and now it’s just a trickle-down effect. There’s pretty much an ambassador on every team [in the OHL], which is a nice thing to see. It started with maybe two or three of us, and now it’s grown.”
The small act of showing up, sitting down and having some of your blood drawn can have major implications. According to Vitalant’s website, daily personal emergencies and the ongoing medical needs of thousands of patients require a constant and ready blood supply. It’s not the blood that is donated during major disasters but the blood that is already on hospital shelves that saves lives.
“It really can save someone’s life,” Robertson said. “If you think about that, you feel so good doing it afterward. You might feel a little bit scared going into it if it is your first time, but go with someone, a friend or family, and do it together, and it will be a little easier. And know that you’re going to help someone’s life and you could be saving someone.”
Thursday’s blood drive will take place at The Monument Ice Arena from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Anybody who donates will receive a pair of tickets to a future Rush home game of their choice. Appointments are available and can be signed up for by visiting this link.