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"Ask A Leaf" With Gary Roberts

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Welcome to a "Ask a Leaf" on where you can ask a question of a member of the Maple Leafs each week and see selected answers posted here. You will also be able to see the answers on FanCam, one of the more popular shows on Leafs TV.

Recently, we had the chance to do a Q+A with Leafs' assistant captain Gary Roberts.

Q: How old were you when you started playing hockey competitively?

Gary: "I started to play squirts in Whitby at age five."

Roberts is the heart and soul of the Leafs' lineup.
Graig Abel Photography.
Q: Who was your hockey hero growing up, and why?

Gary: "Guy Lafleur was my hockey hero; I always enjoyed No. 10. Guy Lafleur was a great player; he scored a lot of goals. I was a Montreal Canadiens fan back then; of course I'm not today. Also Lanny McDonald was a hero of mine, and I had the opportunity to play with Lanny in '89 and win a Stanley Cup together, so that was a special time for me also."

Q: Do you apply Guy Lafleur's style of play to the way you play?

Gary: "Probably not. He was a lot better skater, and scored more goals. It was just the way he skated on the ice and scored goals off the wing. He's a real dynamic player, real flashy player. This is why, at a young age, he stood out so much for me. I ended up not making that style for myself, but it sure is fun to watch. Today if you look at a guy like Alex Mogilny he's a real fun player to watch, just like Guy Lafleur was for me."

Q: When did you know that you had the competitive edge and the ability to make it in the big leagues?

Gary: "When I was 15 years old I received a call from an agent saying I think you're going to be drafted to Junior A. I was thinking 'No, your nuts!' and he said, 'No really, you should go to the draft'. So I went to the draft not really being prepared to be drafted, and I ended up being drafted to the Ottawa 67's as an under-age player. At that time, I remember thinking, 'Wow, maybe there is a chance to play in the NHL'. Up until that point, I just played to have fun. I just felt that it was just such a big dream and long time away, that I didn't even think about it until I was drafted to the Junior A."

Q: What was it like to play with Lanny McDonald during the '89 Stanley Cup run and actually win the Cup?

Gary: "It was great opportunity as a young player. I mean, at 23 years-old and winning a cup. A buddy who I grew up with throughout my minor hockey career whose name was Joe Nieuwendyk was also on the team. I remember when we won the Stanley Cup we looked at each other and said 'Gee that was easy, how many more are we going to win?' I'm going to be 37 this year and I haven't won one since! It just goes to show you that it doesn't happen often. To win a Stanley Cup is a great honour and you don't realize how tough it is to do it. Looking back, I realize that it has been a long time and I would sure love to have the opportunity again. To have that opportunity to win with Lanny McDonald, who was a real hero for Joe and I, was a special time for both of us. To see him score in Montreal to help us win that game was awesome."

Q: Do you have any lucky rituals before a game?

Gary: "No not really, I think I got out of that years ago. Maybe I'm a little superstitious. I always tie up my left skate first then my right skate. I always tape my stick somewhat the same way, and change my tape after every period. I think it becomes more of a habit then anything else. I find, when it comes to eating and sleeping it's different. Some days I sleep a lot on game days, some days I don't sleep at all. I haven't really gotten into a routine that way, but I guess if something works for you and you have a good game, try to copy that. I'm getting old now so I forget what I did yesterday, so I have a tough time copying everything!"

Q: What do you do to recuperate from an injury in order to get back into the game quicker?

Gary: "For me, nutrition is a big part of it. No one likes to be injured. You try to do everything you can to get back as soon as possible. Rest and nutrition are two things that I really try to get a lot of when I'm injured. My shoulder surgery was a rough time, but now my shoulders feel great! But then I came back and pulled my groin, so I have had some injuries and hopefully it's not a sign of working too hard. I'm just trying to get my rest, really eat right, take care of my body."

Q: What is the worst injury you have had throughout your professional career?

Gary: "Definitely the two neck surgeries when I was 30 years old in '95. At that point, it ended my career for six months. Obviously I thought my career was over. I was fortunate to have the two surgeries and get away from the game for 18 months in order to get the nerves in my neck to regenerate and do the proper training to get back out here and play. So I feel very fortunate that I'm getting this second chance to play and hopefully I can prolong that as long as I can."

Q: What's the best part about being a Toronto Maple Leaf?

Gary: "I think wearing the jersey and being a part of all the history and tradition that goes along with being a Toronto Maple Leaf is great. It is a great organization. Whether your young or old, it's a special place to play and it elevates your game to be in the spotlight everyday with nowhere to hide. If you're playing great it really works in your favor and if things aren't going so well, you pay the price also. I think it makes you a better hockey player to be a Toronto Maple Leaf."

Q: What does winning the Stanley Cup mean to you as a Leaf?

Gary: "The Stanley Cup is what we play for every year. You put money aside and you put everything else aside to win the Cup as a team. To have the opportunity to win as a Toronto Maple Leaf would be a pretty awesome thing."

Check back in upcoming weeks for the next installment and see the Features Archive for past installments of "Ask a Leaf".
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