Editor’s Note: The following was originally published on the Online Kingdom on April 1, 2006, as the annual April Fools Day gag story. It is being re-published here on Frozen Royalty with future Hockey Hall of Famer and former Kings forward Jeremy Roenick announcing his retirement from the National Hockey League this week.
LOS ANGELES — On Saturday, prior to their game against the Dallas Stars at Staples Center (7:30 PM Pacific time), the Los Angeles Kings announced that veteran center Jeremy Roenick has been waived.
Taking his place on the roster will be right wing prospect Konstantin Pushkarev, who was assigned back to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), on Friday. This will be a “paper” transaction—Pushkarev never left Los Angeles after traveling with the Kings from Edmonton.
Roenick, the future Hall-of-Famer, has had a less-than-disappointing 2005-06 season, scoring an anemic eight goals and ten assists for eighteen points with a -8 plus/minus rating in fifty games this season, a far cry from what was expected of the Kings’ number one center, who never came close to playing like one.
The 36-year-old center was acquired by the Kings on August 5, 2005, from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for future considerations.
On that day, the Kings thought they were getting a player with some offense left in the tank, as well as a player who would bring intensity and physical play to the team.
“Jeremy certainly plays the game of hockey at a very high tempo,” said Kings President/Hockey Operations and General Manager Dave Taylor at a press conference introducing Roenick back in August. “He brings a physical element to our top group of forwards, and he also brings endless energy and passion to the ice every night.”
“I think our fans are really going to enjoy watching this guy play,” added Taylor. “He represents everything you want in a hockey player. He plays with passion, he plays physical, he brings an element of skill to the table, and we think he’s an excellent fit for our club as we move forward.”
And it was not just the Kings who expected big things from Roenick.
“I can add a tremendous amount to the roster, said Roenick. “Not only a lot of speed and a lot of physical-ness, but the thing that I love doing the most is a lot of playmaking.”
“I scored a lot of my goals mainly due to the fact that I play a very physical game,” added Roenick. “I create more room for myself. People have told me to slow down, but I live on the edge and I play on the edge, at a high speed.”
But as the season wore on, Roenick’s words rang increasingly hollow as he stumbled, bumbled and practically slept his way through game after game—he was virtually invisible in too many games to detail.
Indeed, the fact that the Kings have been virtually eliminated from playoff contention for their third straight season can, in large part, be laid right at Roenick’s skates. His lack of production, and his seemingly allergic reaction to anything even closely resembling physical play or hard work, was a major contributing factor to the Kings’ misfortunes.
Without question, if Roenick was able to put up the expected 50-60 points on the scoresheet this season, the Kings would be in the playoffs easily.
“There’s no doubt that Jeremy Roenick has not given us the offensive production we expected,” said Taylor, who addressed the media at a hastily-called press conference prior to the team’s morning skate at the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. “No matter what [former head coach] Andy Murray and [interim head coach] John Torchetti have tried, nothing has worked with Jeremy. We don’t know what it is, but he simply didn’t play at level we felt that he was capable of.”
Roenick’s lack of production also doomed Andy Murray, who was fired by the Kings on March 22, with just twelve games left in the regular season—he would undoubtedly still be behind the Kings’ bench if Roenick had given the Kings what was expected.
Noting that Roenick has spoken openly and repeatedly about his post-hockey career aspirations in Hollywood, reporters asked if that had been a distraction.
“You’ll have to ask Jeremy about that,” said Taylor. “I don’t know if he was distracted or not. No matter what the reason was, Jeremy didn’t give us the offensive production, the dedication, or the leadership you’d expect from a player of his caliber and reputation.”
Although Torchetti has only four games under his belt with the Kings, it did not take him long to see that Roenick’s uninspired play had become not only a distraction, but it was also causing resentment among his teammates, even though they were not talking about it publicly.
“I knew that Jeremy had not been giving the Kings what had been expected, and when I came in here almost two weeks ago, I knew that we needed him to turn his game and his attitude completely around,” Torchetti explained. “Of course, the ankle injury hasn’t helped matters. But I felt Jeremy should be giving us more.”
“As I said when I came here, I’m all about the team, and everyone here is part of the team—everything we do is for the team,” Torchetti added. “Individual goals are not more important than team goals, but it seemed to me that Jeremy was somewhere else, even though I’ve only been here for a short time. His attention and focus seemed to be elsewhere. That’s putting individual goals above team goals in my book.”
“And that’s sad to me,” said Torchetti. “We’re talking about a guy who will go down as one of the best players in NHL history. The guy is going to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jeremy is the kind of player who should go out on his own terms. Not like this.”
Taylor added that the move was made now to remove that distraction from the dressing room
“We still have a remote chance of making the playoffs, so it was important to make sure our team is focused on the task at hand,” said Taylor. We felt that Jeremy’s play was not a positive motivating factor for our younger players.”
Although the players were obviously uncomfortable talking about their now-former teammate, two of their leaders stepped up to the plate at the press conference.
“JR gave us some intangibles that you can’t easily explain,” said Kings defenseman and team captain Mattias Norstrom. “And you can’t take away what he’s accomplished in his career. He’s one of the best players ever. But when you come right down to it, like a lot of us, he didn’t get the job done on the ice for us this season.”
“Could we be in the playoffs right now if JR had given us the offense we all expected this season? Sure. But we win as a team and we lose as a team,” added Norstrom. “We’re all in this together. No one person is more at fault than the other.”
“Yeah, we sure could’ve used a lot more offense from JR,” said Kings left wing Luc Robitaille, who is also headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame. “But I didn’t give this team the production I think I’m capable of either, so he’s not the only one.”
“There’s a lot of guys in this room who could have played better,” Robitaille lamented. “It’s so disappointing on so many levels. We’re almost out of the playoffs and you know, we got Andy fired. All that is our fault. Not Andy’s. None of this should’ve happened. We should be in the playoffs and, you know, John’s a great guy, and no offense to him—he’s done a fine job. But Andy should still be our coach. But we blew it so he’s not.”
Despite being so disappointed by Roenick’s play, Taylor said that no one should be bad-mouthing Roenick.
“Jeremy has earned nothing but the highest respect because of what he has accomplished in his NHL career,” said Taylor. “We wish him well in whatever the future brings to him and his family.”
Shortly after the announcement, Roenick gathered the media together in another part of the Toyota Sports Center for an even less formal press conference of his own. And never one to shy away from the media spotlight, he told his side of the story.
“This hurts, it really does,” said Roenick. “This is not how I wanted to go out. But I didn’t give the Kings what I should have been able to. Our playoff hopes are on life support now, in large part because I sucked all season, so I don’t really blame them.”
When asked about the reasons for team’s problems this season, Roenick pointed inward.
“I don’t blame Dave Taylor or any of the coaches,” he said. “I blame myself. I didn’t produce. I didn’t give the team what we needed. This is a results-oriented business and I didn’t put up the numbers.”
“You know, the lockout year hurt me more than I thought,” he added. “I came into camp way out of shape, and that’s my fault. It took me until near Christmas to start feeling like I was in top condition, and then I broke my finger and was out six weeks. That sure didn’t help. And then the ankle injury. It was like, ‘what else can go wrong?’”
But then, Roenick revealed the biggest reason for his acute lack of production and his inability to work hard on every shift.
“I was never able to get my skates cut at the angle I need,” Roenick lamented. “I need a different angle than most players, and I never could get my skates sharpened the way I need them and that really messed up my skating. It’s the biggest reason I haven’t been able to get untracked.”
“I have a slightly unusual gait, and unless I get the angle I need on my skates, it cuts down my speed,” Roenick added. “I’ve had trouble with that all season. It’s been, by far, my biggest problem this year.”
When asked to comment, Kings’ equipment manager Peter Millar angrily refuted Roenick’s claims.
“JR didn’t have any problems with his skates, at least, none that were created by us,” said Millar. “We sharpened his blades just the way he wanted. If he had problems, they were his own. They didn’t have anything to do with us.”
When a veteran reporter mentioned to Roenick he had covered the NHL for over thirty years and that the only athlete the reporter had ever heard complain about how their skates were being sharpened was a figure skater, Roenick said that he never had problems with them before.
“I played in Chicago, Phoenix and Philadelphia, and I never had any problems like this until I came here,” he explained. “I just couldn’t get them sharpened to the cut I needed. It really hurt my skating and my play. I really do believe it’s the single most important reason for the way I’ve played this season.”
Roenick also said that he had another problem that affected his performance.
“I was never able to get an athletic supporter that fit right,” Roenick complained. “That affected my skating as well.”
“After every shift, I had to adjust my nuts on the bench.”
And no, Roenick was not joking. But no reporter wanted to follow this angle, for obvious reasons.
But do not expect Roenick to give up.
“My body is yelling at me [to retire] but my mind is keeping me around,” Roenick told the Edmonton Sun. “A lot depends on the free-agent market. If I see something I like, I might [play next year]. If not, it’s been a pretty good career.”
“I’m going to have a very big summer of training and working out and I really truly believe I’ll be back for another season,” Roenick added. “I don’t know where it’s going to be, but it’s not going to end this way, that’s for sure. I’m a stubborn bastard. I don’t like to see my career end on a year like this.”
The only question is: What NHL team would be foolish enough to take a chance on him?
The only thing anyone needs to look at in trying to figure out Roenick’s dismal season is his lame excuse about his skates. No journalist who covers the Kings believes the skate-sharpening excuse.
“Roenick is slow because he’s out of shape, he’s gotten old fast and his mind hasn’t been focused on playing hockey all season,” said one reporter.
When asked about Roenick’s skate problem, Taylor, Norstrom and Robitaille all said, “no comment.”
Clearly, Roenick is not thinking clearly if he thinks anyone bought the skate-sharpening excuse when he first mentioned it, or now that he has been waived. It is perhaps the most ridiculous excuse ever given for poor play. This is likely a sign that Roenick’s mind is elsewhere—he has to be pre-occupied by other things. After all, what athlete of his caliber in their right mind would even think of using such an excuse?
And considering how soft he has played all season, Roenick’s troubles with ill-fitting athletic supporters could not have been a very big problem at all.
Despite all his problems this season and their causes, Roenick was a world-class player for a long time and is headed to the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible, something that no one can take away from him. However, the Kings will be stuck with him for the rest of this season despite all this, because it all happened on April 1.
Editor’s Note: If you have not realized by now, this article is an April Fools Day gag story. Nothing in this article is true (except for the spirit in which it was written). Our apologies to the Los Angeles Kings, the Manchester Monarchs, Dave Taylor, Mattias Norstrom, Luc Robitaille, Konstantin Pushkarev, Peter Millar, Andy Murray, John Torchetti, and yes, even Jeremy Roenick. This was nothing more than an attempt at humor on April Fools Day. No malice was intended towards anyone, named or unnamed.
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Not sure who I was happiest to see leave. Roenick, Fuhr, or Cloutier.
Ok, I lied. It was Fuhr.
about as big a laugh as his saying the next season that he deliberately showed up out of shape to protest the “unfairness” of the new collective bargaining agreement. i lost a lot of respect for him over that one.
About time…ADIOS JR!!!
Helene…as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, my April Fools gag story that year was as much an op-ed piece as it was a joke. Maybe more.
Or the fact that he LOVED us media folks until his name got mentioned in the Tocchet mess. Then we were scum.
Some things just never get old. Thanks for posting this Gann!
Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!
The sad thing is that your story is 98% believable.
As great a player as he was, I have a huge distaste for JR. He was awful for LA. The whole skate-sharpening, poem writing thing was just too much for me.