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Roberts to oversee training regimen at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, March 11, 2015 9:27 a.m
GaryRoberts
NHLI via Getty Images
Penguins forward Gary Roberts skates against the Islanders on Dec. 15, 2007, at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
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Jason Mackey
Boards will go up around both hockey rinks at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry later this month. Ice installation will occur in May, according to UPMC project manager Mike Schesler. The Penguins new practice facility will open in August 2015.

If you think about it, who else would the Penguins have hired to oversee the philosophy and off-ice training regimen for the Sports Performance Center at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry?

Former Penguins player and cult hero Gary Roberts was introduced at a news conference Wednesday at the soon-to-debut facility — Roberts gave a doors-open date of Aug. 15 — and said he was happy to reciprocate.

“For me, this is a way to thank Pittsburgh for how I was treated as a Penguin,” the 48-year-old Roberts said. “To come back and contribute to the community, help youth hockey and help athletes in other sports and bring that passion that I have for preparation to Pittsburgh and hopefully help some young players get to be as good as they can be.”

Roberts spoke Wednesday, wearing black jeans, a silver blazer and a checkered shirt. He did not, however, have a W.W.G.R.D. bracelet — What Would Gary Roberts Do?

He is aware of the cult-hero status he achieved here.

And loves it.

“My son’s still walking around with one of those things on,” Roberts said.

In his new role, Roberts’ tasks will be many.

He will start by hiring and training staff over the summer. Some will visit and work with him in Toronto, at his own training facility.

Roberts, who hopes to spend at least one week a month in Pittsburgh, will remain in his current role training NHL players, a group that includes former Penguin James Neal and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

The Penguins don’t foresee there being any problem with the arrangement.

“We’re going to tell him, ‘Just do a little worse with those guys,’ ” Penguins CEO and president David Morehouse said. “He’s working for UPMC. He’s going to be a consultant with the team. Just like he consults with Stamkos and all the other athletes, we think it’s good for our athletes to be able to work with him. No, we don’t see a conflict.”

Roberts mainly will work with kids, teenagers and young adults in all sports but also will run a program for business executives during the week. Among his primary responsibilities will be crafting workouts, helping families with nutrition and grocery shopping and dynamic exercise training.

“We were looking for the best,” Morehouse said. “And Gary Roberts is the best.”

The announcement of Roberts’ hiring was followed by a tour of the facility, where structure-wise — walls, roof, etc. — all milestones have been met, UPMC project manager Mike Schesler said.

Boards for the two rinks will go up in March, Schesler said, and the process of making ice will begin in June.

July will include furniture and artwork installation. Stone bleachers are in. Same for the layout of the locker room, purposely oval-shaped and identical to how the team is housed at Consol Energy Center.

Roberts’ primary work space will be above the two rinks, in a space that will include a sprint track and physical therapy equipment.

“It’s a real thrill for me to be a part of a facility like this,” Roberts said. “The last time I was here, the walls weren’t up. The windows weren’t in. It’s really coming together. It’s going to be a phenomenal place for people to become better educated, more fit and better prepared for their sport.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

Categories: Penguins
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