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At Brown University's RFC's 50th reunion in 2010, Rugby Imports' owner Bob Hoder, set up a small table to sell rugby gear to the one hundred plus Brown rugby alumni returning for the ceremonial event.
He listened as I narrated purchasing my first pair of boots in 1965. I visited Soccer Sports Supply in New York City, and the salesperson handed me a pair of boots saying, "We recommend this model from that great English rugby winger Tom Finney." And I purchased them. Later, when I inquired of a Manhattan RFC teammate from the UK what club Finney played for, he replied, "Preston North End in the English Football (Soccer) Association."
Hoder laughed at my faux pas. By the time he started Rugby Imports, there would be no reason to substitute soccer boots for rugby boots.
Robert "Bob" Hoder died recently, a day of sadness for the American rugby community. Countless thousands of ruggers in the US bought boots, balls, jerseys, and other rugby gear from Hoder's rugby store located in East Providence, RI. Before the proliferation of online selling, Rugby Imports sent out catalogs filled with merchandise. In addition, Hoder displayed kit and more at the well-attended events like the New York RFC Sevens and the summer Can-Am tournament at Saranac Lake.
Hoder played football at URI where he captained the team senior year. Later, he would be inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduation, he came to New York City and began playing rugby with Old Blue. Returning to Rhode Island, he and four other rugby players (Mike Diffley, Jay Fluck, Bill Mullin, and Hal Wilder) started the Providence RFC in 1971.
Jay Fluck, the continuing Director of Rugby at Brown, remembered his teammate and friend:
"Bob was an old school rugby player, having come from a football background In the late 60’s, he was an original member of the Providence Rugby Club, captained the team, was president of the Club. We won a New England Championship with Providence in 1975. Although I played with Bob during the early and mid-70’s for Providence, I suffered more than one injury when he would launch himself in my direction during a tackle, missing the opponent, injuring me instead, and asking me afterwards why I got in his way. A hard man as a player, Bob had a soft side. His dedication and generosity to the game as a player, administrator, coach and benefactor through his Rugby Imports business has been steadfast for 50-years. He touched the rugby community locally, regionally and nationally."
He was the driving force behind the popular Beast of the East Tournament, which has become the largest collegiate event in the nation, attracting over 70-teams each year to Portsmouth, Rhode Island.