In the years leading up to the birth of Gordie Roberts, his parents were avid Red Wings fans watching Gordie Howe in his prime. As a tribute to Mr. Hockey, they named their son in his honour.
Once he was old enough to stand on a pair of blades, Roberts took the spirit of his namesake and applied it to the local rinks where he began to excel at the game. By age 16, he put in a season with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings and then turned pro with the Victoria Cougars of the WHL in 1974.
The following year, he jumped to the WHA with the New England Whalers. There he found himself surrounded with former NHL royalty in the form of Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Dave Keon among others. He also got the chance to skate with his brother who was ten years his elder.
When the New England Whalers joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers, Roberts was astounded to have Howe, Hull, and Keon all on his team. He has fond memories of their first return trip to Maple Leaf Gardens when the Whalers turned it on for the win, bringing smiles of vindication that the old guys could still get the job done.
In 1980, Roberts was traded to the Minnesota North Stars where he played parts of eight seasons as a rugged rearguard with a touch for head-manning the puck. He also frequently played for Team USA at the World Championships and the Canada Cup. In 1988, he was traded to the Flyers for eleven games and then passed along to the St. Louis Blues where he remained for parts of four seasons.
Then, as the Pittsburgh Penguins were on the rise, coach Bob Johnson remembered how useful Roberts could be for providing blueline stability, having coached him with Team USA. He brought him into the Pens' fold just in time to make a successful playoff run to claim the club's first-ever Stanley Cup victory. Roberts got to like playing a supporting role for Lemieux, Stevens, and Jagr. So, he stuck around for another Stanley Cup win the following year.
After the party was over, he signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins where he put in two seasons before heading to the Chicago Wolves of the IHL in 1994. There he performed as a player/coach for a season and then moved over to wrap up his 22-year on-ice career with the Minnesota Moose.
Since packing it in, Roberts has worked as director of player personnel and as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes.