Ode to J.R.
Jeremy Roenick had just signed as a free agent with the Sharks when I sat down with him in September 2007. San Jose was the fifth National Hockey League team he had suited up for (having played for Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles before that).
He had just come off a less than stellar season in Phoenix, where his loyalty and effectiveness were questioned and it appeared it might be the sad end to a great career. We all remember the incident where he enjoyed a beer and a plate of wings at a local establishment rather than stay at the arena as a healthy scratch to watch his teammates. But unbeknownst to most, he still had two more seasons in him.
Over the years, he has had a few controversies and conditioning issues, but one thing Jeremy Roenick could never be accused of being: boring. Known as “the mouth that roared,” the popular center agreed to as many talk show and media interviews as he could. He was always approachable, always quotable, and agree with him or not, always likeable.
As he sported his new jersey with the Sharks, I asked him how much of a challenge was it to try and fit in with a new team.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, but when you’re around for 19/20 years, you kind of get used to this kind of situation. The different systems and stuff is not that tough. A lot of the systems are the same. It’s getting to know the guys, and getting to know them on a personal level is more important, and you have to take your time.”
A couple of years away from age 40, one might wonder if Roenick could keep up with the younger guys after 19 seasons or so.
“I have to work much harder than they do, actually. I have to be in early. I have to be on the bike more often, be at the gym more often. I have to pay attention to detail more often. I have to take care of my body better. The body deteriorates as you get older. It gets more tired, and you don’t have as much of the pep that some of these young guys have. Mentally, I’m still as excited at being here. That’s a big part of it.
“If you’re tired mentally, you’re physically going to be tired. If you’re continually physically tired, you’re going to get mentally tired. It’s really a hard ball to juggle. When you’ve been around as long as I have and you have the chance to do something that you’ve never done – win a Stanley Cup – like I have this year, the juices start to flow more rampant.”
Roenick did not hide the fact he was happy in San Jose.
“I don’t know if you call it rejuvenation. My energy is very high…my excitedness to be on this team is very high. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity.”
It was a sad day for media and talk show hosts all around North America when he hung up the skates for good on August 5, 2009. We may never be able to see him play again, except maybe Oldtimer hockey, but it would be no surprise if J.R. reappears as the media.
The J.R. Quote Vault
October 22, 2007: Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr delivered a hit that left Roenick momentarily stunned before he groggily skated to the bench amidst a chorus of boos from Calgary Flames fans. About the crowd, he remarks, “Well they were cheering for me, weren’t they?”
He said he was hit hard, that his head rattled against the glass, he thought he was Batman for a minute, and he needed to get his bearings. “I don’t know if they should have stopped the play or not. I was just going to stand there until my sight came back.”
January 30, 2008: on then Calgary Flames’ Owen Nolan’s first hat trick since 1999. “He's a tremendous leader, a tremendous competitor, and he can do everything on the ice. He killed us tonight, too, the sonofabitch.”
Here is a blog that shows some classic J.R. moments: http://www.greatesthockeylegends.com/2009/08/sunday-funnies-jeremy-roenick-edition.html
Regarding New York Islanders’ Garth Snow: "It's not my fault (Snow) didn't have any other options coming out of high school. If going to college gets you a career backup goaltender job, and my route gets you a thousand points and a thousand games, and compare the two contracts, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out whose decision was better."
About Edmonton Oilers’ coach Craig MacTavish ripping the tongue from Calgary Flames’ mascot Harvey the Hound: "I was surprised by how easy it came out. It was one of those tear-away tongues. Kevin [Lowe, Edmonton GM] said he should have tucked it into the breast pocket of his jacket. Like an ascot."