Highlight of long career

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Moments after winning his first Stanley Cup crown, Gary Roberts started thinking about capturing a second.

Standing on the blueline during the trophy presentation at the Montreal Forum, a 23-year-old Roberts spotted his childhood-buddy-turned-Flames-linemate Joe Nieuwendyk and wondered aloud how many parades they'd be a part of.

"I remember saying to Nieuwy, 'That was easy. How many of these are we going to win?'" he said.

Roberts retired in March after a 22-year NHL career that also included stops in Carolina, Toronto, Florida, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, his name engraved on the Stanley Cup just once. Ditto for the majority of his 1988-89 Flames teammates.

"It just goes to show you need to treasure it because it doesn't come around very often," Roberts said. "Here I am, 20 years later, and I only won one. Obviously, that stands out as the No.-1 highlight of my career. I could've retired after 1989 and saved myself all these surgeries and all these bruises."

No one would have guessed it would be Roberts' last. Flames GM Cliff Fletcher had assembled a squad most pundits expected to contend for years to come.

"When you look back at that team, you go 'Man, we had a lot of stars,' " said winger Colin Patterson. "The Lanny McDonalds, the Mike Vernons, the Hakan Loobs, Joe Nieuwendyks, Joe Mullens, Doug Gilmour, Gary Roberts, Al MacInnis ... The list went on and on."

"We always said we probably should've won more," said Mullen.

Turns out, they wouldn't win another playoff series in Flames silks.

McDonald hung up his skates, Loob returned to Sweden and rearguard Rob Ramage was traded to Toronto after the Cup-winning campaign, leaving the Flames without several key veterans in 1990, when they were eliminated by Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the opening playoff round.

Mullen was shipped to Pittsburgh the following summer and the Flames' post-season party was cut short in a seven-game 1991 set against the archrival Edmonton Oilers.

Fletcher joined the Leafs' front office in 1991. Eight months later, he orchestrated one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history when he acquired Gilmour, defencemen Jamie Macoun and Ric Nattress, and backup Rick Wamsley from his old team for a five-player package headlined by speedy winger Gary Leeman.

The Flames missed the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

After four more first-round exits -- and the departure of Vernon, MacInnis, Roberts and Nieuwendyk -- the '89 Stanley Cup celebrations seemed like a distant memory.

The lone remnant of the championship squad found a new address when Theoren Fleury was traded to Colorado midway through the '98-99 season, leaving Harvey the Hound as the most high-profile holdover and just one Stanley Cup banner hanging from the Saddledome rafters.

"We had a pretty good hockey club there if we had've kept that team together," Gilmour said. "It's a shame that we didn't win another one."


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