New defenceman fits in well
Sam Roberts came to the HGOE CeeBees with a lot of mileage on his 32-year-old frame. The St. John’s native has played all over North America and even professionally in Europe, but he was ready for a change of scenery this season and anxious to find a team to play with closer to home.
St. John’s native Sam Roberts had enough of the travel.
Since just before his 17th birthday, the 32-year-old defenceman has been travelling somewhere for hockey. In the 15 years since departing for his first year with the Cumberland Grads of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, Roberts has made stops in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ireland and France.
In that time, there’s been plenty of long bus rides, flights and drives as he crisscrossed multiple countries in search of the NHL dream.
“I’d been gone since I was almost 17. That’s half my lifetime and I’ve done enough travelling, coming and going,” Roberts told The Compass last week. “I’d made it known to a couple of people that it was my last year playing away and (I wanted to) play a bit of senior hockey.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces and it’s always been in the back of my mind that I’ve always wanted to play at home again, have some family in the stands and play against some old friends.”
With that in mind he threw his name in the last Avalon East Senior Hockey League (AESHL) draft of the season and waited to see where he’d land. The HGOE CeeBee Stars happily scooped up the high profile blueliner and made him the first overall pick.
But why the Avalon East Senior Hockey League?
Surely a guy with his résumé could earn some money playing in the high profile Central West Senior Hockey League. The answer to that question goes back to the travel.
The farthest he’d go for a game is Harbour Grace, a short 45-minute drive from his home in the capital city. In the central league, that balloons to five hours and a bus ride.
“I didn’t want to come home only to spend every week- end travelling back and forth across the island. Couple that with the fact I have some very good friends playing in the league, especially Harbour Grace, it was a no-brainer for me,” said Roberts. “I commend the guys that (go west) and maybe if I was in a different circumstance I probably would.
“That drive out to Harbour Grace once or twice a week is simply all I’m looking for. If I don’t see another bus, I’ll be OK.”
Shoring up the blue-line
The CeeBees are happy to have Roberts and his considerable skill on the ice. In just four
games of action, he’s already become a dressing room leader and a focal point for the team.
It’s not strange to see Roberts having a continuous conversation with the officials over the course of a game. Nor is it strange to see him spark the CeeBees’ attack while being the first man back on defence.
Heading into last weekend, he sat tied for third in league scoring and tied for the lead amongst defenceman with five points (three goals, two assists).
“The hockey’s been great so far,” said Roberts. “You never know what you’re getting into until you start playing games. I was kind of holding my breath going into that game out in Harbour Grace against the (St. John’s) Caps. A lot of the guys said it was going to be physical and have a good pace. I tell ya, I haven’t been hit like I’ve been hit these last four games.”
Going to a new team can be rough when it comes to fitting in and getting to know your teammates.
That wasn’t exactly the case for Roberts. He’d played with Robert Slaney on one of his previous hockey stops and calls him a friend.
That’s likewise for other guys in the lineup.
That made his adjustment to the dressing room easier than most.
“Since we started practicing, people would ask me what I thought of the team or what I thought of the group. It’s a group of guys I’d gotten to know prior to this season. Some better than others,” said Roberts. “Now that we’re into it and played a few games, it’s a group that I’m happy to be a part of.”
With his return to the prov- ince, his career has come full circle.
Roberts back playing where he started against guys he both played against and with as a member Avalon minor hockey.
“Whether I play one more year or 10 more years, it’s nice to be finishing it up at home,” he said.
St. John’s defenceman Sam Roberts is having a solid impact in his first year of senior hockey with the HGOE CeeBee Stars.