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Essex celebrates the legacy of Robert Chittle

by Garrett Fodor

Photos courtesy of Reid Funeral Home & Essex 73’s

  Essex County and the hockey community are coming together to celebrate the life of one of their own.   On May 8, Robert ‘Bobby’ Chittle passed away at the age of 62, after a battle with cancer. The former goaltender for the Essex 73’s, the Windsor Royals, and the Windsor Spitfires was known to be ahead of his time between the pipes. While on the 73’s, Chittle played with his brother, Don, and his cousin, Len.   Teammates often referred to Chittle as the reason the Essex 73’s junior hockey team was able to win two consecutive Schmalz Cups and three league championships from 1976-1978. “We had all kinds of talkative guys on our team, and Bobby was just kind of the rock,” recounts Mark McGuire, a former teammate of Chittle’s and life-long friend. “He was a solid foundation to that team. And man, when he said something in the room, it was like, you know, okay, Bobby’s talking now. And I think that was because of his, you know, his commitment to excellence, we were able to succeed on the ice and Bobby was able to succeed after it as well.” During his 20s, Chittle started a construction business, building pole barns. And it is here too that many in the community noticed the sense of pride and craftsmanship that he put into the work, similar to his style on the ice.  “Chittle barns are known that they don’t blow down, not too many guys have to repair a Chittle barn,” McGuire claimed. “And I think it’s Bobby’s commitment to, if you’re going to do something and you’re going to put your name on it, you got to do it right. And I think that rubbed off on many of us as young teenagers. Many of us looked up to him and he was mature way beyond his years.”  Many recount seeing his big smile and the bigger saves he would make in the Essex Memorial Arena. Former Coach, Dave Prypich, noted Chittle was ahead of his time in his technical style of goaltending, as he was calm and focused on the angles. He is known as one of the best 73’s goaltenders of all-time. “He was definitely proud of wearing the uniform and wearing the Chittle name,” Prypich said. “He was an all-around, really good person. If I hadn’t coached him as a hockey player and I just got to know him as a person, I’m sure I’d be talking about him in the same way. [He was], you know, just extremely comfortable to be around. Even within five minutes of meeting him, he was truly genuine and outgoing.”  In his later years, Chittle would get out to the rinks, often watching his nephews, Mitch and Tycen, play for the Lakeshore Canadiens. Friends, family, and the community are invited to share memories and tributes of Chittle at reidfuneralhome.ca. 

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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