I thank the fans a great deal how I was treated, how my family was treated while I was with the Flames. It’s nice to come back and see those fans and continue to be part of Calgary in a way. - Gary RobertsCALGARY, AB
-- It took Calgary Flames alumnus Gary Roberts
just a few seconds after stepping off his flight to have his first memory of the Stampede City flood back.
The unpredictable weather.
“I think about how much I loved Calgary on a day like today when the sun’s shining and it’s six degrees here today,” said Roberts, arriving in the city a day in advance of the Flames’ first alumni night of 2015 when Calgary hosts the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.
“I do definitely think the weather is the first thing that comes to mind when I land in Calgary because you just never know what you’re going to get. The Chinook that’s been here the past five days, I’ve got to say, makes it a nice time to be in Calgary.”
There’s never a bad time, though.
Roberts, who played 585 of his career 1224 National Hockey League games for the Flames, has plenty of memories from Calgary that extend well beyond the forecast.
He’s set to relive a few alongside fellow Calgary alumni, who will be on hand for the special night that will feature a pre-game puck drop, in-game highlights with fellow featured alumnus and the chance for fans to meet and greet their favourites from years past.
The first highlight that jumps out is the most obvious one for the former 10-year Flames veteran, though.
“Winning my only Stanley Cup of playing 20 years of professional hockey in Calgary, it’s got a big place in my heart,” said Roberts, referencing Calgary’s title from 1989. “This city was great to me. The organization was great to me. It’s always nice to be back in town remembering those special times in my life.
“When you retire you look back on those days and you appreciate them more and I’m thankful that I was given that opportunity to play in the National Hockey League and be part of a winning team like that.”
As part of the ’89 Cup-winning team, Roberts got the chance last May to celebrate the 25th anniversary of hoisting Lord Stanley alongside teammates in a reunion of sorts.
It was an opportunity not soon forgotten by the now-48 year old.
“I think that’s what playing team sports is all about,” Roberts said. “We had a spectacular time. We all sat down in the dressing room that day and I know there’s been some changes at the Saddledome with the flood, but it was like old times for us. We sat down for three hours in the dressing room and talked about how great we were. We were probably a lot better now than we really were. Definitely it was a really special team, a special group, and those were the fun times.
“These are relationships built over a hockey career and we continue to revisit those times and those people and thank them for their friendship and the teammates that they were.”
Thursday’s events will allow those memories to flood back yet again.
This time, though, Roberts plans to share that emotion with fans who ran alongside the Flames to the only Cup win in both his career and franchise history.
“I think the fans, when I think about how I was treated here, Calgary was my home,” he said. “I truly believed I was going to retire in Calgary and be part of the Calgary Flames alumni on a regular basis. Things changed with my injury, of course. I was grateful to play and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Definitely I thought Calgary was going to be my home forever. I spent my summers here. I never went home in the summer.
“Coming back and reconnecting with the fans, for me, is important. I thank the fans a great deal how I was treated, how my family was treated while I was with the Flames. It’s nice to come back and see those fans and continue to be part of Calgary in a way.”