"Scary" Gary Roberts began his NHL career after being drafted 12th overall by the Calgary Flames back in 1984. It is said that when he arrived at his first Training Camp after being drafted that year he had assumed that his summer lacrosse schedule would be more than enough to keep him in hockey shape for the coming seasons, but boy was he wrong. Badger Bob Johnson, perhaps best known here in Pittsburgh for leading the Penguins to their first ever Stanley Cup victory in 1991and then tragically passing away the following season, was the Head Coach of the Flames at the time. According to the story (which can be found in a Tribune Review article from 2007) Badger Bob singled him out in front of the rest of his teammates, using him as an example of a player who was not focused on fitness and was not dedicated to his hockey career.
"He called me out, basically embarrassed me in front of everybody," Roberts recalled. "At the time, I obviously wasn't a big fan, but as I matured and learned, I realized he was right."
"It was a real hit to my confidence," says Penguins winger Gary Roberts, now 40. "But when I look back on it, it's probably why I am the way I am today."
From that point forward Gary Roberts began to focus heavily on his training and nutrition, to the point where even playing into his early 40s he was held aloft as an example of extreme dedication to the sport of hockey. He spent 10 seasons with the Flames, ultimately being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, and a few years later signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He joined the Pittsburgh Penguins late in the 2006-07 season via a trade with the Florida Panthers (for D Noah Welch) and was part of the run into the Stanley Cup Finals during the 2007-08 season, but his rights were traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with Ryan Malone so he never did get to lift the Cup again, missing out on the Penguins 2009 Cup victory. However, despite his limited time with the Pens his influence was felt throughout the organization, with his work ethic and dedication to fitness inspiring the young stars, including Sidney Crosby.
"He's so impressive, both on the ice and off," Crosby said yesterday. "You couldn't have a better guy around. He's such a class act. You are 19 years old, he's 40, and he spends more time in the weight room than you do. Even when guys eat their meals, they watch what they eat around him."
Following his retirement in 2009 he joined the Dallas Stars organization as a Player Development Consultant. He has worked with many NHL superstars over the past few years, even being credited with turning Steven Stamkos into the goal scoring machine he is today. That is what led him to start the Gary Roberts High Performance Centre and Fitness Institute, training many young prospects and even current NHL stars, including former Penguins Center Jordan Staal and current Penguins winger James Neal.
The newest addition to his program? Penguins prospect Defenseman Reid McNeill. In a recent interview with Ian Altenbaugh of Hockey's Future, McNeill discusses his training session with Gary Roberts.
"He still works out with us in the gym. He’ll get his workout in first then train all of us. But if we’re at the track or something, he’s running right in the pack. You can still see the competitiveness in him. And the drive. He wants to be the best at what he does. I think he’s really proven that he is the best at what he does. He puts you in exercises where you didn’t even know you had muscles that pulled that way.
But the big bombshell revealed by McNeill was the following:
McNeill dropped this little tidbit too: "[Roberts] is going to have workout programs, centers, in Pittsburgh for the community as well."— Ian Altenbaugh (@IanAltenbaugh) August 15, 2013
So keep an eye out for a Gary Roberts High Performance Centre opening up to the public in a location near you. If you are looking for an excellent workout and high class nutritional information then his program comes highly recommended from some of the best athletes in the world.