Fabbri brothers share special bond and a similar skillset

Detroit Red Wings forward, Robby Fabbri, credits his brother, Len, for influencing his play on the ice and support away from the rink.

Fabbri brothers share special bond and a similar skillset

Feature photo: Guelph Gryphons & Getty Images

Whether it happens to be on the ice or life outside the arena, the bond between Len and Robby Fabbri has always been a strong one.

The brothers continue to maintain a close connection through their shared loved of the game, beginning with their days playing road hockey in the streets of southwestern Ontario through the time they played together in the city Guelph.

Before his days as a forward with the Detroit Red Wings, Robby, who is three years younger than Len, enjoyed a prosperous junior career with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, while his older sibling thrived in university with the Guelph Gryphons.

“The biggest highlight for me was that Robby was on the Storm the same time as I played at the University of Guelph, so we weren’t far away from one another,” recalled Len, a centre who played three seasons with the Gryphons spanning 2013-16.

“Even then, we were there for one another. If he was experiencing any problems, we were right around the corner for each other. Outside of that, I was able to be part of the Gryphons team that won a championship, which was a great memory. It was even more special because Robby was able to celebrate with the team for that, too.”

Robby won the Wayne Gretzky ‘99’ Award as the OHL’s playoff MVP in 2014, when he put up 28 points in 16 games to help Guelph to the league crown and onto the championship game of the Memorial Cup.

Throughout his 147 games with the Storm, Robby always admired his older brothers’ game.

“I’m not saying that because he’s my brother, but he was a very good player. It was tough to see him hang them up because he was always a great player to watch. He was always bigger than me I was always the little skinny kid and he played strong and heavy. That’s where I learned to play with a little bit of an edge. He wasn’t afraid of the corners or throwing the body around. I added that to my game because of him.”

Their bond was forged well before their respective Guelph experiences, days when the younger Fabbri would tag along with Len, who was happy to have him along for the ride.

“It stems from when we were really young,” said Robby of their relationship.

“We’ve always been very close. He’s three years older, so watching him play the game, seeing him start that journey himself, all I wanted to do was play hockey and be like him. I also wanted to hang out with him and his friends and do whatever they were doing. He’s always been the older brother that allowed me to come along and who has always been there when I’ve needed help.”

Len, who now works at Google in business development, recalled the times when Robby, now in his eighth NHL season, would join him and his university teammates on the ice for practice.

It is something the former Gryphons still talk about to this day.

“I have some old teammates that I talk to every now and again, and we remember when Robby would come out to our practices over the holidays,” said Len.

“All they would say is, ‘Wow, your brother is amazing.’ He would go bar down on our goalie a couple of times. You look back on it and it’s hilarious. Those moments are special.”

They are far from the only ones the brothers have shared over the years.

Robby, originally drafted by St. Louis 21st overall at the 2014 NHL Draft, won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019.

Traded by St. Louis to the Detroit Red Wings on November 6, 2019, Fabbri had a memorable debut with the club. He scored two power-play goals in a 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins, making him the first player in Red Wings history to do so in their first game with the team. He has since had two 30-plus point seasons with Detroit.

Known for his on-ice vision and savvy play-making abilities, Robby, who has overcome serious injuries over his NHL career, has also incorporated some of his sibling’s skillset into his own game.

Len sees some of those similarities whenever he watches Robby play.

“We’re both relentless when we are out there and we both persevere. I had my fair share of obstacles to overcome nothing near what Robby has but that’s another thing we have in common.”

They also continue to count on one another for support. The two speak almost daily throughout the NHL season.

“Still, to this day, he’s the one I go to whether that is to vent about life, hockey or anything,” said Robby, who scored a power-play goal in Detroit’s first regular season game on October 12.

“He always has the time to be there for anything I need. It goes both ways, but I think that’s what makes the relationship so strong. Whether it’s hockey or life, he’s one of the first people to text me. With him, if he gets a job promotion or something good is going on in his life, I’m one of the first to reach out to him. It’s about catching up on the good times but being there for each other during the bad times as well.”

Neither Robby nor Len takes that closeness for granted.

“Our parents did a great job instilling the importance of family and having that bond from a young age,” noted Len. “It’s something my brother and I cherish. As much as we are family, we are also a team in everything we do. I’m always there for him and he’s always there for me. We can talk about anything that is going on in our lives.”

As it is on most nights before a game, the brothers spoke on the phone. 

“We talk as often as we can,” said Len. “It doesn’t matter what it’s about, we’re just happy to talk to one another.”