July 18, 2010

Summer Re-Runs: Then and Now with Gary Roberts

We're deep in the doldrums of the hockey off-season so I have decided to re-run a few articles about former players that I wrote for the Ottawa 67's news letter last season.  

The first one is with Gary Roberts. He was great to interview - relaxed, unhurried and chatty. Turns out he keeps an eye on major junior.


Gary Roberts left his North York home in 1982 to join the Ottawa 67’s and was on the road pretty much ever since until his retirement in 2009.  He recalls that it was a bit of a shock going to the draft and getting picked in the second round.  It was also a pretty big deal at the time being the only guy from among his crowd to leave home to play hockey.  His good friend Joe Nieuwendyk stayed in town and went to the NHL via college.

According to Gary, he barely made it through his first year. It wasn’t his on-ice performance but rather his off-ice antics that landed him in hot water. He says he was a bit of a follower at that time and followed the 20-year olds into places he ought not to have been. He also got into a couple of fights at school that almost got him a bus ride home. A couple of teachers stood up for him, he stayed in Ottawa and he stayed out of trouble.

In his four seasons with the 67’s he scored 122 goals, 140 assists and spent 587 minutes in the penalty box. He played in all 5 games in the 1984 Memorial Cup tournament, scoring 1 goal and adding 4 assists as the club won its first national major junior hockey championship. Among his teammates were Darren Pang and Adam Creighton who also went on to NHL careers.

Gary has great memories of his time in Ottawa. He credits Brian Kilrea as being the most influential person in his hockey career and he fondly remembers his billets, Mary and Cliff Kelly as a second set of parents.


Gary’s career is well documented: traded to the Guelph Platers late in the 84-85 season where he won his second Memorial Cup; drafted by the Calgary Flames as their first round pick in the 1984 draft (12th overall), spent 12 years with the club, winning the Stanley Cup in 1989; won the Bill Masterton trophy in 1996 for his remarkable perseverance after going through potentially career-ending surgery on his neck; and played for 5 more NHL teams before announcing his retirement in March 2009.

And so, for the first time in well over 20 years, Gary found himself out of the usual rhythm of going to camp, preparing for and starting a new season.  He admits it was hard at first and was glad that September was great for golfing to occupy his mind. As the co-owner of the Wooden Sticks golf course in Uxbridge, he had ample access to tee times.

Gary enjoys spending time with his two young sons (ages 6 months and 4 years), including using them as an excuse to get in the afternoon nap that he has been used to for so many years.

He has still has a passion for the game and sees himself getting back into hockey in some form or another in the future. His current thinking is that he would really like to work with the young men who have their eyes on the NHL. They are now entering the league with so much preparation and he would like to contribute.

In the meantime, he is really enjoying time with his family that he was not able to when he played in the NHL and preparing to become a hockey dad.

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