Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of profiles of local athletes.
The Roberts family has cemented its legacy with Haverhill High hockey.
Joe Roberts was captain of the team in the 1984-1985 season. Barney Roberts was captain in the 1986-1987 season. Pat Roberts captained the squad in 2008-2009.
Now, in the 2011-2012 season, Jeff Roberts — son of Joe, nephew of Barney and brother of Pat — has become the fourth member of the Roberts family to be named captain of the Hillies hockey team.
"He's the best captain we've ever had here at Haverhill High," said Haverhill coach Spike Sprague, who coached each of the four Roberts players. "He follows in the footsteps of his brother, uncle and father. He is a great role model and he has complete respect from the team.''
Much of why Sprague considers Jeff to be the best of the Roberts bunch is the leadership he has shown in what has been a disappointing year for the Hillies. Haverhill has two wins and 11 losses on the season, enduring an eight-game losing streak during the campaign. Through it all, Roberts has tried to keep the team's spirits positive.
"The way he performs on and off the ice, you wouldn't know that we are (2-11)," Sprague said. "You would think we are (11-2). He never stops working hard and that rubs off on the rest of the team."
Roberts is tied with fellow senior Jeremy Noone for the team lead in goals with seven on the season. Many of Roberts' goals come from when he is stationed in front of the net, jamming away at loose pucks in the crease while taking a pounding from the opposing team's defensemen.
"He plays the way we want our kids to play," Sprague said. "He gets to those dirty areas of the ice that no one wants to go to."
While the season has been a struggle for Roberts and the Hillies, they have played better in the last week. Haverhill snapped its eight-game losing streak with a decisive 5-2 win over Newton South last Wednesday. In that game, the Hillies had full control of the ice, spending long periods of time with possession of the puck in the Newton South zone. Haverhill outshot Newton South 39-23, and Roberts had a goal and an assist in that game.
On Saturday, the Hillies played perhaps their toughest opponent of the year in undefeated Boston Latin. The Hillies played tough before finally succumbing 3-1 after Boston Latin scored an empty-net goal late in the third period to seal the victory.
"We're just not getting any bounces right now," Roberts said. "The only way to get through bad luck is to just keep working harder than any other team out there.''
The Gazette sat down with Roberts to talk about life on and off the ice.
How do you keep a positive attitude as one of the captains?
I keep working in practice and just keep going at it. I try to lead by example and hopefully everyone follows. We had some rough one-goal losses early, and I feel like if we had won one of those games, then we would have been alright.
What is the one thing you want to leave with the younger players when you depart after this year?
That they should never give up. They should always have a positive attitude and never get down on anyone.
Did you expect to lead the team in goals?
I don't know. I don't really like patting myself on the back. I'm just trying to do my thing.
How did you get started in hockey?
My father introduced me to the sport. I was only 3 years old when I learned to skate. I just loved hockey and I have always loved watching it.
What other teams do you play with during the year?
I play in my dad's league during the summer. It's not just playing with old guys. Players from Division 1 colleges will come and I'll play against them in the summer. (Boston native) Benn Ferriero of the San Jose Sharks actually came to one of our games and we played against him.
What is your favorite aspect of hockey?
I just like coming here and that it's a whole different world ... just forgetting about everything else that is going on and just playing hockey.
Who is your inspiration?
My father. He is an assistant coach of our team and he has taught me everything I know.
Do you play any other sports?
Coming into high school, I played football. But I loved hockey so much, I wanted to play yearround.
Are you looking to play hockey next year?
I'll do whatever it takes to play at college. I'm currently looking at Assumption, UMass-Amherst and Bridgewater State. I'm leaning toward Bridgewater State. They have a club hockey team, so hopefully I can go on and play there.
Do you know what you want to major in?
I kind of want to be an athletic trainer or something along those lines.
Do you think the Bruins have a shot to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions this year?
I do. Most of their players are young and they are still getting better, so I don't see why not.
Let's do some favorites. Favorite kind of music?
Metal. I like to play the drums.
Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin or Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg
Subject in school?
History and psychology
I don't really watch must television, unless sports are on.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I play the drums and I like to go work out. I'll also go outside and I like shooting the puck at the net in the driveway.
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