I was asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about JR's career with bloggers from each of his NHL stops (I love how I don't have a name but am Committed Indian. I'm going to start calling Trent Reznor "Nine Inch Nails") Anyway, you can see the full discussion here. My answers are below:
1. When you hear the words "Jeremy Roenick," what comes to mind about the player he was and the personality he had?
A: Face-first. The biggest reason JR is my favorite Chicago athlete of all-time is that in his time here, everything he did was in a face-first, damn-the-torpedos, chicks-dig-scars style. Roenick crashed face-first into the crease, opponents, the boards, interviews, appearances, cameras, anything. I often tell people I patterned my lifestyle after JR on the ice, a completely impulsive, do-what-feels-good method. Led to a lot of scars, vomit, and astronomical bar tabs, but been a hell of a ride.
I also think opportunity-lost. Roenick will get a heritage night at the United Center this season, but it won't include what is should have, and that's his #27 heading to the rafters. That's how exciting he was.
2. What were your recollections/memories/praises/criticisms of Roenick’s time with your team?
Despite the resurgence of the organization, the Hawks have not had a galvanizing as a player in all areas as JR since he left. Kane's close, he's going to be a good interview one day soon, but he's not going to bury someone at center-ice like JR was prone to. There was no more perfect performer in the perfect setting than Roenick at the Old Stadium, who could get the building rocking by putting a d-man's jock into the middle of Madison, rifling one top-shelf, or catching a forward with his head down and sending him into the arms of Morpheus. Alex Ovechkin's game is the DVD to JR's VHS tape. This town loves a brash athlete who can even come close to backing it up, which is why Jim McMahon is still revered around here even though he was barely above average.
Favorite memories? We posted his OT playoff goal against the Leafs in 1994 on our site after the announcement, when JR needed his teammates to keep him from climbing into the crowd to celebrate. There was the back-and-forth with Roy in 1996, and his milking of a goal he thought he scored after all of it in Game 6 (later credited to Bernie Nicholls). I think the defining one was the beginning of our Finals run in 1992, when he single handedly eliminated the Blues in the first round Game 6, scoring one goal of a spin-o-rama. When the press told him after the game Mike Keenan didn't like that sort of thing, JR's response was, "Tough shit."
Criticisms? It's hard to say. JR certainly helped grease his exit by talking a lot about his contract and negotiations, which was a big no-no with the Elder-and-thankfully-dead Wirtz. But other than that, the biggest thing about the Roenick era that upsets me is the exit, in return for Boozy McDriveDrunk (Alex Zhamnov). JR should be in the pantheon of Chicago athletes, with Sweetness and MJ and Big Hurt and such, but won't be. You can trace the fall of the Hawks into the abyss right at his departure, because until last season, the Hawks had played 11 playoff games in the 12 years since his departure. Now that the acrimony of his exit and the Hawks incompetence is in the rearview mirror for Hawks fans, I expect most if not all will remember what an experience he was in an Indian Head.
3. Your favorite Roenick moment in pop culture?
I'm supposed to say Swingers here, right? I'm sure everyone else will. This probably doesn't count, but when I was a freshman in high school a female senior complemented me on my #27 jersey. I don't think I've ever felt as cool as that. Sadly, I haven't impressed a girl more in the 15 intervening years since.
4. Finally, hockey fans have talked for ages about Roenick moving to the TV side as an American Don Cherry and/or hockey’s Charles Barkley. It’s that wishful thinking, or could he turn a Versus or NBC studio show into something special?
I think it has potential for either greatness or disaster. I recall his stint in the booth during the 2004 World Cup, and if I recall the results were painful. So as an in-game analyst, I think that's out. A color position is no position to put your personality first, which is exactly why all my friends and I own Pierre McGuire Voodoo dolls. Daryl Reaugh gets away with it because his occasional colorful remarks are shrouded in spot-on and intriguing analysis.
So that leaves the studio. I know a lot of fans are thinking hockey's version of Charles Barkley. But a lot of people forget that, at least until a couple seasons ago when he stopped caring, Barkley wasn't only funny but extremely insightful. Chris Webber and Gary Payton were a riot on NBA TV, but they took time to point out stuff only former players could see. If JR can bring his personality along with top-notch hockey thoughts, then yes, I think it can be a wonderful thing. If he's just going to do his overgrown-frat boy act, well...then he'll be the same as everyone on Fox's NFL coverage, and that generally makes me want to firebomb something.