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Jeremy Roenick has always been one of those polarizing hockey players. He has his lovers, and he has his haters. His haters may even outnumber his lovers. For this reason, Roenick’s retirement announcement last year was heavily overlooked.
To remember Roenick by his flare for the dramatic and ignoring everything he accomplished in his career isn’t fair to this hockey great. Roenick seems to be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame.
In his prime, Roenick was amongst the best in the league. Scoring more than 50 goals in a season twice and breaking 100 points three times, 9 all-star appearances, two stints with the US Olympic team, and more. The 39th highest point scorer in the history of the sport. These are all very impressive stats.
Roenick will get some slack for the fact that he could never lead his team to the cup, but think of all of the great players in every sport and the fact that only one team wins each year. Too many great players play the game and never see a title; it’s a fact of life, not an indictment.
Think back to some of the memories that come to mind. The Game 7 against the Coyotes despite his broken jaw, or his 2004 game against Toronto, played under similar circumstances. Roenick was always willing to play hurt.
Roenick was still effective later in his career, too. Thinking back to his stint with the Sharks two years ago, the veteran led the team with ten game winning goals, proving that he still had some gas left in the tank.
Sticking it out that long took tons of guts. But what really separates J.R. from the rest – at least, for me – is his unparalleled courage in taking on the giants of the game in an effort to improve the sport. When it came to being not only an ambassador, but a fierce advocate for hockey, there simply was no player better suited for the role than Roenick.
His heart always was there on his sleeve for all to see – and he didn’t care in the slightest if its public pumping irked those at the highest levels of the game. As long as he was speaking his mind to keep hockey in the spotlight and expand its popularity, he was as prepared to rip former NHL Players’ Association czar Bob Goodenow as he was to blast commissioner Gary Bettman.
And if you’re grateful to him for all the laughs, all the emotion and physical sacrifice he made as a player, you’ll pause for a moment and pay your respects to a man and a mouth who scored and roared as well as anyone.