BORN IN 1938, he first skated at Melbourne Glaciarium when he was 14, and 3 months later joined the newly-formed Arkana Ice Hockey Club as a forward, coached by Ron Amess. He was awarded Best First Year Player the year they merged with Hakoah at St Moritz after Melbourne Glaciarium closed. His first A-grade game for the Club was in 1957 and he gained a regular spot as a defenseman. Awarded Best and Fairest and Best Clubman over the years, he competed in both A and B grades until 1963. He served on the committee, as the club's honourary treasurer, and as delegate to the state association. He won his first VIHA premiership and his first national in his last season with the club without ever missing a game.
He joined the Pirates IHC as captain in 1964 and also captained the champion Brown Trophy team that year and again in 1965. Voted MVP in 1966, he was appointed delegate to the state association; awarded Best Clubmen for a second time at a new club; and became its vice-president and life member. He reluctantly retired from playing in 1972 due to a serious eye injury sustained in a game that earned him a 3 week rest in hospital.
In 1973 he was awarded the VIHA Trophy for services to junior ice hockey between 1967 and 1969; the years he was Junior Development Coach at Ringwood. He coached both the Bombers and Cheetahs, winning numerous state championships. His work was also recognised in a trophy donated by Pat Burley for the state Bantam Championship which bears his name. He was appointed president of the state association and delegate to the national association. He served as national vice-president and president in 1973-4 when he became general manager of the Australian ice hockey team at the 1974 World Championships in Grenoble in France coached by Elgin Luke.
In 1979 he joined the Rangers at Iceland Ringwood, the year they won their second premiership and went on to win back-to-back premierships in 1981 and 1982. He served as junior coach, team manager and president. He was awarded Best Clubman for the third time at a different club. He was state tribunal chairman member; a foundation member of the state Development Council; and later the national Development Council. Awarded life membership of the state (1985) and national (1988) associations, he was the recipient of the Hudson Trophy in 1989.
A foundation member of the Oldtimer Ice Hockey Network (OIHAN) in the early 1970s, he became its treasurer, vice president and delegate. He joined the Melbourne Nite Owls and played veteran hockey in Australia, America, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic and New Zealand. He was awarded Veteran Player of the Year in 1988. He broke his leg skating at Medibank Icehouse at Melbourne Docklands in his seventies, but he returned and in 2013 he was again an state association executive member, a Nite Owls IHC committeeman, and OIHAN vice-president.
His other awards include the Jim Brett Award for the Player with the Best Old Timers Spirit (2002); the Canberra Challenge Bullwinkle Award (2011); and the OIHAN Legend of Oldtimer Ice Hockey (2012). He was a recipient of the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and made Patron of his state association in 2015.
Ross Carpenter, 'Blackburn, Robert Bruce (1938 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-blackburn.html, accessed online .