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February 23, 2016

Doug Roberts

When Doug Roberts arrived as a full time NHLer in 1968 he was one of the few American born and trained players in the league. In fact, the only other American trained player at that time was Tommy Williams.

Doug - brother of long time NHLer Gordie Roberts and father of NHLer David Roberts - grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL. He actually served as a stick boy for the visiting NHL teams at the old Detroit Olympia arena even.

But given that so few Americans made it to the NHL at that time, he never really believed his dreams could come true. Hence he enrolled at Michigan State University rather than pursuing any junior options. It was still almost as rare to see a college hockey player make it to the NHL at that time.

Roberts starred at Michigan State (he also played football) for three years before turning pro with the Detroit Red Wings farm team in Memphis. After being named rookie of the year in the CHL in 1965-66, he went on to play 51 games with his hometown Red Wings over the next three seasons.

Though he was disappointed to be traded from the Wings before making the team full time, he welcome the move to Oakland as it gave him a chance to be a full time NHLer.

Interestingly, Roberts broke into the league as a right winger, playing along the wall with Detroit and back in university. But once he was traded to the Seals he was converted into a defenseman.

"He was a good right winger," said Seals coach Fred Glover. "But when I saw that size all I could think of was defense. And he's a good defenseman."

Roberts welcomed the switch of positions.

"I'm now convinced that my best shot is on defense. I'm not fast enough to be an NHL forward."

And it worked. Roberts would go on to play a total of 419 games in the National Hockey League and another 140 in the WHA. 

"He was a serious type," said teammate Earl Ingarfield. "He moved the puck well. He was not a physical defenseman but he had very good hockey sense. He was more reserved and paid attention to the game. He was very determined."

Roberts played three seasons in Oakland, and by his final season he, along with fellow defenseman Carol Vadnais, represented the Seals at the 1971 NHL All Star Game.

By the next season he was off to Boston but he was mostly buried back in the minor leagues in their organization. He returned to Detroit in 1973 for a season and a half. 

He ended his career playing two seasons with the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association and then a year with Jokerit in Finland.

Roberts would go on to coach the mens team at Connecticut College from 1980 through 2000. 

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