Roberts announces retirement

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Roberts is retiring from the NHL after 21 seasons.

"I never fathomed I'd last this long," Roberts said. "A lot of thanks to a lot of people who helped me through those years."

The Tampa Bay Lightning left winger made the announcement Tuesday. He had already said he would retire at the end of the season.

"I loved the game, absolutely, I played 22 years because of it," he said. "I'm going to take some time right now and kind of reflect. My wife is due at the end of May. I have two beautiful children with one more on the way. I'm sure at some point I'll be back in the game but I'll take some time here to reflect."

Roberts retired in 1996 because of a chronic neck injury but returned the following season. A Stanley Cup winner with the Calgary in 1989, he has 438 goals, 471 assists and 2,560 penalty minutes in 1,224 career games with the Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Lightning. He has three goals and four assists in 30 games this season.

"Gary was what every GM or coach in the NHL desperately searches for today -- someone who can play the game at a high level of skill but still brings a very substantial physical dimension to his game," Cliff Fletcher, who as GM of the Flames drafted Roberts in 1984 and won a Cup with him in 1989, told ESPN.com. "Gary certainly did that. He was truly a terrific NHL player."

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.