Saturday, August 8, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love Jeremy Roenick. . .

I will be more than honest in saying I never was much of a Jeremy Roenick, aka JR, fan. Not inthe beginning when I had yet to really follow hockey and not when I did and he was just another Flyer I found want to dislike.

But somewhere in there it changed.

If I remember correctly, it was an interview he gave during the summer of 2007, on the XM network, where he talked, among other things, about his recent t-shirt venture.

That interview sparked my interest and I made note of the company he worked to found.

Now that warmed me.

But what "got" me was his comment about interviews. And how he always said what he wanted (umm, well, duh) and how he encouraged players in the league to do the same. To laugh during their interviews. To smile. To share a piece of themselves with the fans.

If I never agreed with another word he spoke I agreed with him there. So many players played right into the cookie cutter mold. Saying the PC comment with no reaction, no inkling of having a personality or a sense of individuality, of humor.

JR never did that.

Hell, he had his jaw broken by one-time Ranger Bobo Miranov and he still wanted to give an interview with his jaw wired shut.

That's commitment to the game. (Or something).

As annoying as that sometimes was, in retrospect, I appreciate fully what a trendsetter Jeremy Roenick was. Not afraid of going against the grain or saying the un-popular answer.

In what quickly and regrettably became a world of cliche answers and playing by the book, I suddenly appreciated Roenicks candidness. Whatever uncertainty I had before faded by the fact that he was one of the only ones that would dare speak out against the common opinion.

And I loved him for that, even if only that.

As he announced his retirement Roenick said that he'd regret not having won a Cup but that he'd never regret anything he said.

I love that it was part of his closing remarks. I love that is who he is.

I may have never been a fan of Roenicks on the ice , although I cheered him with the Sharks because I wanted to cheer for the guy who went against the norm and the guy who cleaned up his life for the game.

And yet in spite of any initial dislike, a great part of me is sad that he is gone from the game we all love.

Sad because he really had so much to give and so much to say, and sad because I, for so long, was just another person who didn't want to hear it.

For honestly it was not so much even what he was saying, but rather that he had the guts to say it at all.

And that is what I will appreciate and that is what, when all is said and done, I will remember.

So thank you to Jeremy Roenick. Thank you to the guy who never feared saying what he truly felt. The guy who stood up and spoke up when all those others couldn't or, more than likely, wouldn't.

To JR I say: thank you. Thank you for never being cookie cutter.

For those who still have mixed opinions, a good article on his retirement at Canoe Sports.

As a kid growing up in New England, Roenick would watch the Hartford Whalers work out.

"I'd lean my head over the glass and watch these guys," Roenick said. "Once, when I was seven years old, Gordie Howe got a bunch of snow on his stick, skated over and dumped it on my head. I thought that was the coolest thing and I've always carried that with me.

"He skated around a little more, then looked at me and winked. For three seconds it was just me and Gordie Howe. That small amount of gratitude resonated my whole life. It was a gift to me and when I reached the NHL, I made sure to acknowledge the fans."

Great stuff.

**It's amazing how part of the world came down when Twitter did. I felt handicapped not being able to say the few things I wanted to express. How quickly that world has become a catch-all for hockey.**

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