Jimmy Roberts a five-time Stanley Cup champion and the first player selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 1967 NHL expansion draft, died of cancer Friday. He was 75. Many hockey fans were not born when Roberts skated in the NHL, but his name is all over the Stanley Cup.
Roberts was not a superstar, nor was he flamboyant, but he was inspirational because of his never quit, never say die, relentless desire to win hockey games. His pesky style of play irritated many of the opposing teams star players, but if there was a vote on which player they would add to their team to become champions. Roberts name would surely be one at the top of every list. Roberts, played defense and forward during his career and led the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three seasons.
Roberts won the Stanley Cup five times with the Montreal Canadiens (1965, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1977) and was selected an NHL all-star (1965, 1969, 1970). A superb defensive player, and was also an effective scorer when needed in that role.
In addition to his time with St. Louis, Roberts spent 10 seasons in Montreal and was part of five Stanley Cup championship teams.
Roberts played in 1,159 NHL games, including 447 with the Blues, before retiring in St. Louis at the conclusion of the 1977-78 season. He spent 15 seasons in the NHL with the Canadiens and Blues. He would coach the Buffalo Sabres (1981-82), Hartford Whalers (1991-92) and Blues (1996-97).
“The St. Louis Blues and the Blues Alumni organization are deeply saddened by the passing of the original Blue Jimmy Roberts,” the Blues said in a statement. “Jimmy was the franchise’s first-ever draft pick and was instrumental in building the foundation of Blues hockey as a player and upholding its tradition as an alumnus. His tireless contributions to St. Louis, the Blues and the game of hockey as a whole will forever live as an example for future generations to follow. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Judy, and their two daughters.”
Prior to playing in the NHL, Roberts had Scotty Bowman as his coach with the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey Association. Roberts and Bowman forged a special relationship as coach and player over the years starting in Peterborough and St. Louis and Montreal spanning over a decade.
Roberts also spent early years in the Eastern Professional Hockey League with the Montreal Royals and Hull-Ottawa Canadiens before joining the Cleveland Barons in the American Hockey League in 1962-63.Roberts made his NHL debut in 1963-64, getting one assist in 15 games with the Canadiens. He had 126 goals and 320 points in 1,006 regular-season games and 20 goals and 36 points in 153 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
After his retirement as a player, Roberts was hired as an interim coach of the Buffalo Sabres under his old mentor Bowman before coaching the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League to back-to-back Calder Cup championships in 1990 and 1991, after which he was named the head coach of the Hartford Whalers. He later became the coach and general manager of the Worcester IceCats of the AHL for two seasons before moving on to be an assistant coach with the St. Louis parent club between 1996–2000, including a stint as the interim head coach in 1997.