COMMENTARY: Forward Jeremy Roenick announced his retirement from the National Hockey League on August 6, 2009, ending a stellar NHL career that spanned twenty years and will earn him induction into the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible. But there is one nagging little thing that, especially to the chagrin of Los Angeles hockey fans, no one is talking about…
LOS ANGELES — At a press conference on August 6, San Jose Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick announced his retirement from the National Hockey League, ending a glorious NHL career that saw him don the jerseys of the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and the Sharks.
In that twenty-year span, Roenick scored 513 goals and contributed 703 assists for 1,216 points with 1,463 penalty minutes in 1,363 regular-season games. The only American-born players who have scored more goals are Mike Modano and Keith Tkachuk.
In the playoffs, Roenick scored 53 goals and tallied 69 assists for 122 points with 115 penalty minutes in 154 games, although the Stanley Cup would elude him.
In international play, Roenick represented the United States at the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Games (won the silver medal in 2002). He also played in the 1992 Canada Cup, World Championships (1991, runner-up) and World Junior Championships (1988 and 1989).
Roenick, easily one of the greatest US-born players to ever play the game and who will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, should be proud of what he accomplished in his twenty years in the NHL.
“I am not only happy but proud of the twenty-year career that I have had in the National Hockey League,” said Roenick. “To end my career on my terms was very important to me and I must thank [Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager] Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks organization for providing me that opportunity.”
“I also want to thank all of the teams and players that I have been associated with for making my career much more exciting than I could have ever dreamt,” added Roenick.
Roenick was known not only for his high level of skill, but his toughness and the passion he brought out onto the ice.
“Jeremy Roenick will be remembered as one of the most dynamic players to ever play in the NHL,” said Wilson. “The level of passion he brought to the ice in his final game was just as high as the first time he laced up his skates over twenty years ago.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Roenick received congratulatory phone calls from the likes of Modano, Tkachuk and Chris Chelios, while many other NHL players chimed in to praise Roenick via several published stories.
To be sure, Roenick deserves all the accolades and honors, especially upon his retirement. His record of achievement is indisputable.
However, there is one glaring black mark on his career and to provide some balance, especially for readers who follow the Los Angeles Kings, that black mark was Roenick’s 2005-06 season with the Kings.
In that lost season for Roenick, he scored a miniscule nine goals and added thirteen assists for 22 points with 36 penalty minutes in 58 games.
To be fair, Roenick was already in the twilight of his career and no one should have expected to see the same player who starred with the Blackhawks for nine seasons or even the one who played very well for the Coyotes for five seasons from 1996-2001.
Nevertheless, more was expected of him in terms of offensive production, grit, working hard on every shift and providing veteran leadership, both on and off the ice. Instead, all the Kings got was an ineffective whiner who blamed everyone but himself for his shortcomings.
Roenick’s most infamous whine came when he blamed the Kings’ equipment staff for not being able to sharpen his skates correctly.
“I struggled because I couldn’t get my skates sharpened the way I like,” Roenick lamented. “I wasn’t confident in my footing. I wasn’t confident in my feet. When you feel like you’re going to fall down and you’re off balance, you’re going to struggle.”
“When you can’t skate the way you like, it leads to a bad back, bad groin, bad hamstrings, bad hips,” Roenick elaborated. “It’s been a battle from the beginning. I have a different skating radius than most guys, so when I change teams, it’s tough for the trainers to find the right lie and the right cut that I need to use with my skates, so it’s tough.”
When was the last time you heard any NHL player talking about their “skating radius?”
Roenick could not have been thinking clearly if he thought anyone bought the skate sharpening excuse, probably the most ridiculous and embarrassing excuse ever given for poor play. Indeed, based on that absolutely lame excuse, one would think Roenick was a figure skater, not a hockey player.
Perhaps just as bad, at a time when fan ridicule of his less-than poor play had reached a fever pitch, Roenick had some choice words for the fans, which were published in a poem that he wrote.
“The fans can kiss my ass,” was a repeated refrain in the poem.
Great way to endear yourself to the people who help pay your salary, JR. A real genius-type move there. Hopefully, you aren’t thinking of going into politics, or seeking a post-hockey career in public relations or diplomacy.
Roenick also spent time in front of the camera in at least six television appearances—time he should have been spending getting himself into top physical shape after obviously letting himself go during the lockout year.
And speaking of Roenick being badly out of shape that season, he came up with another doozy of a lame excuse when he said that he intentionally came to training camp out of shape to protest the lockout and the unfairness of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, in which the National Hockey League Players Association was, for all intents and purposes, forced to agree to a salary cap.
Roenick also turned out to be a divisive force in the Kings’ dressing room, helping lead the team into a downward spiral that led them out of playoff contention and to the firing of then-head coach Andy Murray and former general manager Dave Taylor.
Without question, Roenick was not just a complete, utter failure with the Kings, but he is also one of the former Kings players that Kings fans loathe the most.
To be sure, the Kings have had more than their share of players who were so bad that they soiled the ice just by skating on it (for their sake, they will not be named here). But they were despised by Kings fans simply because they lacked skill and failed miserably as hockey players.
In stark contrast, Roenick was not such a player. Rather, he had some skill left and he knew what he needed to do to get the job done. But he could not hide his lack of dedication to the Kings and the fans saw that. Indeed, Roenick’s failure went much deeper than other former Kings who fall under the “failure” category.
In the end, Roenick was lacking in just about every way imaginable during his brief tenure with the Kings. But most glaring was his lack of honesty, integrity, commitment, professionalism and heart. That showed in just about every game he played for the Kings and even more when he opened his big mouth that season.
While it might seem that all this story is doing is raining on the parade of a future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame upon his retirement, that is not the purpose. Rather, this story is about balance and fairness, especially for those who had to suffer through the one big blemish on Roenick’s otherwise stellar record of achievement.
Indeed, among Los Angeles hockey fans, the name “Jeremy Roenick” often does not evoke the same kinds of great, positive memories or reactions one will encounter elsewhere.
Of course, Roenick has no one to blame for that but himself.
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