February 06, 2016
Always smiling Colby Armstrong the life of a party and a great teammate. He was a pretty good hockey player, too.
Armstrong was a unique skater with a wide stance that allowed for great balance and a deceptive burst of speed. That allowed Armstrong to be an excellent cornerman, working the boards and battling for the puck.
Armstrong showed good puck skills and good creativity once he secured the puck. This made him a good choice as a swing forward, moving from a bottom six role to playing on the top line for stretches. He formed an effective partnership with best friend/road roommate Sidney Crosby while in Pittsburgh.
A member of the 2002 Memorial Cup champion WHL Red Deer Rebels junior franchise, Armstrong was a first round pick (21st overall) of the Penguins in the 2001 NHL draft. After three and a half seasons apprenticing in the minor leagues, Armstrong debuted with the Pens in 2005-06 and found excellent chemistry with Crosby on and off the ice.
Armstrong would play two more seasons in Pittsburgh, though his prime ice time, and therefor his scoring stats, began to dwindle. In 2008 he was part of a blockbuster trade to Atlanta that saw Pittsburgh land Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
With more ice time in Atlanta Armstrong had a strong 2008-09 season with a career best 22 goals. He followed that up with a respectable 15 goals season in 2009-10.
In 2010 the Toronto Maple Leafs signed him to a $9 million dollar mutli-year free agent contract which came with overly high expectations. Amid the pressure and a barrage of injuries including a serious concussion, Armstrong floundered and would eventually be bought out.
"It was brutal. I injured myself almost out of the league," he said.
But he did return. Armstrong fulfilled a childhood dream when resurfaced in Montreal, donning the famed rouge, blue et blanc jerseys with the CH on front. Though he played a depth role on the team, he called the whole experience one of his career highlights.
Armstrong extended his career by playing the 2013-14 season in Sweden, turning down a two-way contract offer from Montreal.
"I didn't think I was ready to play in the minor leagues. So I looked to Europe," he said.
It was another experience he enjoyed, but it was tough given that his second child, a daughter, was born just five days before the family moved to Sweden.
"I wanted to do something to become a better player. With the hockey over here and the big ice, I could work on things like my skating and skill level. I thought it would be a good chance to improve my game and at the same time experience something really neat. It’s been fun. It’s been cool. It’s been quite a journey."
He overcame an early season blood clot in his right leg to enjoy what proved to be his final season on the ice. He even scored a hat trick one game. He said it was his first three-goal game since he was 12 years old.
He returned to Canada after hanging up his skates and got into the broadcast side of hockey.