PITTSBURGH - Gary Roberts played just 57 regular season games for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2006-08, but he had a strong influence on the team.
Roberts' ultra-intense style rubbed off on younger players, who saw the dedication that kept Roberts in the league past age 40, even after serious injuries.
Roberts has been gone from Pittsburgh for nearly three years, and he's now retired from the NHL.
But his influence lingers with newly-acquired left wing James Neal, who has been training with Roberts since he was a teenager.
Roberts and Neal, 23, are both from Whitby, Ontario, and got together when Neal was a promising young player hoping to get drafted for the NHL.
"I got to know Gary when I was younger and I started training with him from the time I was 16," Neal said. "I've trained with him ever since."
The training took a couple of years off as Roberts moved around at the end of his career.
Neal was one of 25 players who attended Roberts' camp last summer. Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner were also there.
The camp is all inclusive and tailored for each player's need. Some are there to build strength. Others need to reduce body fat and replace it with muscle. Everyone needs endurance training to get through a long hockey season.
Most players alternate weight training and cardio work during a typical week with Roberts.
Intense? Roberts knows no other way.
"The same way he played the game, he's the same way in the weight room," Neal said. "He expects a lot out of you and he pushes you to be nothing but the best."
There's another aspect, too: Nutrition.
Players who work with Roberts soon learn to skip the drive-through window at fast food places and hit the specialty grocery store.
Among the items on their new menus are quinoa, sprouts, chia seeds and organic vegetables.
Stamkos told TSN in Canada that he had a tough time adjusting to his new food. But in time, Stamkos said he got used to it and even developed some favorites.
Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers was accustomed to a regular diet of pasta and other Italian favorites.
When he had "spaghetti" under the Roberts plan, it was actually zucchini shredded to duplicate the texture of pasta.
"He gives you the basics," Neal said. "Whether you decide to do it or not is up to you. He's got everything there for you to look at."
As tough as winger Mike Rupp is on the ice, that's how nice he is away from the rink.
Rupp does a lot of charity work and spent time last summer on a trip to Haiti, assisting efforts to build a school in the earthquake-ravaged country.
His concern for others manifested itself in a unique way earlier this season.
When Rupp takes the ice for warm-ups, he likes to slam into the boards. It's part of his routine.
He did that at one game at Consol Energy Center his season and noticed that the crash knocked over a fan's beer cup.
He told one of the trainers to go back to the locker room and take $10 out of his pocket. Rupp attached the money and a note to the puck, and flipped it over the glass to the fan who had lost his beer.
"I felt kind of bad about it," Rupp said. "I didn't think it was a big deal, but the story got out and it was everywhere."
Matt Cooke has become a target of criticism around the NHL for his dangerous hits on opposing player.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post called Cooke "a serial headhunter."
There was also harsh criticism from Rob Brown, the former Penguins winger who now broadcasts games for the Edmonton Oilers.
Brown told the Edmonton Journal that Cooke is a bigger problem than the New York Rangers' Sean Avery.
"Avery can be cheap. Cooke is just dirty," Brown said. "Cooke is a guy who can end careers. He possibly ended Marc Savard's (Boston) career. He could have ended Alex Ovechkin's career by sticking out his knee."
I've played with guys who have no conscience. It's like they want another notch on their belt.
"If it had been me who hit Savard and he was still out, I'd be sick to my stomach. But Cooke continues playing the same way."