Sudbury’s Iron Man: Bobby Chaumont
By: Mike Commito, Sudbury Wolves Historian
Bobby Chaumont never missed a day of work for the Wolves. After joining the team as a 16-year-old rookie in 2001, Chaumont went on to play in 272 straight regular season games for Sudbury. His incredible feat not only shattered the franchise record held by Jim Koudys at 136 games, it also set a new OHL benchmark, surpassing Mike Oliveira’s 266 consecutive games with the Kingston Frontenacs from 1995-99.
Although Chaumont went on to rewrite the Wolves’ record book, he almost didn’t play for them. Before being selected in the fifth-round by the Wolves in 2000, the Sudbury native actually had plans of playing collegiate hockey in the United States. “I had gone to visit few US colleges before getting drafted, and I was kind of leaning towards that. I remember going to Clarkson University, and then Sudbury ended up drafting me. I played a year [for the Sudbury Northern Wolves] and everything just kind of lined up,” he recently reflected.
When Chaumont first joined the organization in 2001, the team was going through a transition. “A lot of guys were leaving that year. The year I came in we were eight or nine rookies, so there was a chance for me to play, and to have a significant role right away,” he reminisced. Chaumont made the most of the opportunity. “When you’re young, especially as a 16-year-old, you’re not always guaranteed to play every game. I came into a fortunate situation in my first year and was able to play every game, and play a lot,” he recalled.
As Chaumont settled into his role with the club, he relished playing in front of friends and family. So much so that, his teammates bestowed him the nickname “Friday Night Bobby,” because he seemed to have a knack for finding the back of the net before the faithful Sudbury crowd. “As a lot of players will tell you, playing on the road, especially in your first couple years, is a totally different ball game. It definitely makes sense that I would have had a lot more success at home, especially in those first couple of years,” Chaumont recollected. “To play in front of friends and family every night was an awesome feeling. I ended up having a great four years here and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
After his rookie season, in which he led the team in scoring, Chaumont became one of the club’s most consistent goal scorers, all the while being one of its most durable players. “Of course, throughout the years you get a few bumps and bruises, but unless something was broken I was playing,” he remembered proudly.
During his first few years with the team, Chaumont was unware he was chasing down history, but by the start of his final season, all eyes were on him. “I didn’t even know it was a streak until a reporter brought it up in my last year,” he noted. “You don’t even think about it, but you never want to give up your spot in the lineup unless it’s something very serious,” Chaumont added.
The nimble winger had never missed a game in his junior career, and as he inched closer to etching his name into the OHL record books, suiting up for every game became that much more important. Even after a contest in which a goaltender hacked the top of his foot and he could barely put his skate on the next day because his foot swelled up so badly, Chaumont refused to take a night off. “I remember Mike [Foligno] saying, ‘you know, you don’t have to go tonight, we have extra guys.’ But I said, ‘screw that, I’m playing.’”
Chaumont finally broke the league record on March 6, 2005, when he stepped out onto the ice for his 267th straight game, on the road against the Sarnia Sting. He remembers how he even got a standing ovation from the rival fans, but the celebration he received when he returned home was that much more special. “Looking back at it now, it’s one of those things I’ll never forget,” he recalled fondly.
After his memorable time with the Wolves came to an end, Chaumont turned pro, playing in the East Coast Hockey League and the Central Hockey League, before setting his sights abroad for an opportunity to play in Europe. Arriving in Scotland in 2012-13 to play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, Chaumont wasn’t sure what to expect. “It ended up being an experience I didn’t think I’d have. When you think of hockey in Scotland, I don’t think many people think there is hockey in Scotland, but the hockey and the fans were great. It was a great ride over there, and I had the opportunity to visit a lot of Europe, and without hockey, I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he said.
As Chaumont looks for another hockey team this season, he is much more reflective on his life, and for good reason. He’s lucky to be alive. In July 2017, during a weekend with friends and family, Chaumont accidentally swallowed a piece of a plastic fork during dinner. The next morning, he awoke to some severe discomfort, but after a visit to the hospital failed to identify the source of the aggravation, he returned home. The following morning, he went in again. It turned out the plastic fragment had actually perforated his stomach and, by that point, he was septic. “I had to go in for emergency surgery, and I was pretty close to dying,” he recalled. Although the procedure was successful, Chaumont endured a long, painful road to recovery. “I was in and out of the hospital for a while because I kept getting infections. I lost a lot of weight and was in really bad shape. I’m thankful to still be here,” he reflected.
Despite the trauma he endured and the long recovery process, it was not enough to keep him off the ice. Incredibly, just a few months later, Chaumont felt good enough to resume playing. Seizing an opportunity to play for the Drakkars de Caen, he hopped on a flight to France. When he arrived, Chaumont hadn’t taken into consideration that most of the players were already in game shape, but within a few months he was back to feeling like himself.
Chaumont, who turns 34 in November, feels renewed and believes he still has some hockey in him. “I’m 100% now, so that’s what’s really giving me that drive to want to play again. I still feel like I’ve got a few good years left in me,” he noted. Although he’s not under contract for the upcoming season, he’s optimistic that he’ll find his way into a lineup somewhere.
Should he, however, have to contemplate hanging up his skates, Chaumont won’t be walking away from the game. “I love the game too much. I still have the passion for the game, whether it be in coaching or other areas of hockey, I definitely want to be involved in some shape or form. So, when the time comes and I’m ready to hang up the skates, I’ll pursue those avenues and see what’s available. As of right now, I’ll keep looking and go from there.”