NHL Alumni Jeremy Roenick chats about golf, playing under Mike Keenan, eliminating Toronto in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs and much morE
BY: Riley Horan
JUNE 15, 2020
Jeremy Roenick’s playing career spanned over 20 years and 1300 games in the National Hockey League, where he accumulated over 1200 points. From winning a Silver Medal with Team USA at the 2002 Olympics to eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs with an unforgettable overtime goal in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, memories from Roenick’s career are still being discussed with intensity by passionate hockey fans everywhere. In this interview, the Boston Massachusetts native discusses a variety of topics such as playing under Mike Keenan, his soulmate teammate, being an author and what’s next for JR. Here’s Roenick in his own words:
RILEY HORAN: HOW’S YOU QUARANTINE GOING? HOW ARE YOU KEEPING YOURSELF BUSY? HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GOLF?
JEREMY ROENICK: I’ve played a tremendous amount of golf and I’ve been spending quarantine in Arizona. We’ve been very lucky here because our governor has been very reasonable, understanding and cautious of how he’s handled this whole pandemic. He hasn’t closed any parks, so we’ve been able to hike and ride bikes outside and get some good exercise. Definitely keeping active outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of time home with the family. I have had more home-cooked meals in the last five weeks as I have in the last 10 years combined. It’s been nice to kind of catch up on some rest, catch up on some family time, some time at home and not have to worry about traveling around the world. Entertaining, being on television or having to do anything for that matter, which for me is a huge change. Probably my stress levels and my blood pressure have gone down tremendously over the last five weeks.
RH: Do you have a favourite or dream GOLF course?
JR: I have a couple. I mean, I’ve played Cypress, which is amazing. I’ve played Augusta, which is amazing. I’ve played Pine Valley, which is amazing. You know, I have hit some of the big courses here in the United States. I’ve played all over Scotland. All over Europe. I think there is only one golf course I want to go to and the name of it is Cape Kidnappers Golf Club in New Zealand. I think that’s one of my goals in life is to play at Cape Kidnappers.
RH: What was your experience like during your first year in the NHL playing under Mike Keenan. How do you think he built your confidence AS A PLAYER?
JR: It was actually scary playing under him because he was a dictator type coach. He wanted everybody to be uncomfortable. He wanted to make sure everyone was challenged. He was a yeller and screamer and he did not accept mediocracy whatsoever. When I joined the team I was 180 pounds and I was 18 years old coming out of high school and I was now playing against adults. Sometimes it felt like I was in a penitentiary in the ice rink. It was very intimidating, but he taught me to overcome fear. He taught me to overcome pain. He taught me to never question myself and it didn’t seem like that at the time, it seemed awful but once you get over it, get through it and get past it you become a better person, better player and a more respected player.
RH: STARTING WITH THE 1991-92 SEASON, you put up back-to-back-to-back 100-point seasons. what WERE they putting in the pancakes at the Pancake House or the Palace Grill in Chicago that led to such a hot start in your career?
JR: Well said. It was the Palace Grill. I ate there pretty much every single night. You know I was really really fortunate to have great linemates like Michel Goulet and Steve Larmer. Real Hall of Fame guys. I was very lucky to have real talent. I went out every game expecting to score. I went in every game expecting to get 2-3 goals and if I didn’t it was unacceptable. So, you set goals, set expectations and you have to work towards them. I set goals every single night. I had long term goals. I had short term goals that I tried to achieve every day.
RH: You PLAYED with Tony Amonte from prep school to the NHL and won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City AS MEMBERS OF TEAM USA. What was it like going through the league and winning a silver medal with someone you HAVE KNOW since such a young age.
JR: Unbelievable. He’s my soulmate teammate. My soulmate linemate. I don’t think I have ever connected better or knew more about how someone played or knew where someone was at all times, like I did with Tony. Right out of high school and to be able to play on three different teams with Tony, on the same line, is very rare. I think we were probably one of the best one-two punches in the history of the game, if you ask me.
RH: YOU ARE ALSO AN AUTHOR, talk a little about that process and how that experience was for you.
JR: It was interesting. I thought I’d never write a book. I had such an interesting career with my actions on the ice, off the ice, in addition to my ability to be outspoken and brutally honest. Sometimes, too honest. I felt people would want to hear why I played the way I played and said what I said. I had been controversial a lot and I just thought I had a lot of really great stories. A lot of content I thought people would really enjoy reading about how I tic, so it was fun. I don’t know if I would do it again but I really enjoyed it.
RH: Beyond your playing career, you are helping to grow the game’s next talent with THE JEREMY ROENICK Hockey School. Can you talk about the school and what your experience has been running it?
JR: The hockey school has been amazing. I waited to do that. I waited until a time where I could really dedicate myself and be that guy on the ice at all the times. I wanted to make sure I gave the kids that experience, that teaching and the most attention. I wasn’t going to do a school that had my name on it where I show up once a week and sign the kids some autographs. I wanted to make sure I dedicated the entire week to be on the ice every single minute, so I could show the kids what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. Crazy energy, I love to get them excited and kind of get them to love the game the way I did. I’m proud to say we have accomplished that. One of the best organized camps in the all of American hockey and all over the world. We were sad to cancel this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic but we are looking forward to next year and I can’t wait to get back. The kids are going to have an experience they’ve never had at any other camp.
RH: Can you talk about some of the charity work you have done and are currently involved with?
JR: There are so many different charities. You know I’ve been associated with Helping Hands now for over 16-17 years in Chicago. We give money to the Keshet Foundation. So Helping Hands has been the organization that gives to various charities and children’s organizations. Just a myriad of different organizations that I’ve worked for, given to and donated to. You know I’ve been very proud to be a part of the Navy Seals and helping them with David Wells, a former MLB pitcher. Over the last few years, I’ve done golf tournaments and anything I can to help raise money for the Navy Seals and their trials and tribulations. It’s been really rewarding, I could talk forever.
RH: All hockey players have memorable goals in their career. During the 2004 playoffs, you eliminated Toronto with an overtime goal. Do you still get heckled in Toronto and what was the feeling after pulling off such an electric goal? Steak dinner?
JR: My best and favourite goal I’ve ever scored. Probably, I think the biggest clutch goal I’ve ever scored and my most ratifying goal I’ve ever scored. It made me so happy. As much as I love Toronto, love playing in Toronto, love the fans in Toronto, I love beating them and knocking them out of the playoffs for nine years, it was very ratifying. You know, it’s great because people hate the goal but respect the goal, “JR I hate you scored that goal. I’m still sick and think about it but it was still a great goal”. People are very respectful when they talk about it. That’s what I love about Toronto fans, they are respectful and just so in love with the game.
RH: What do you miss most about the game?
JR: Yeah, you hear a lot of guys say “oh, I miss traveling or I miss the locker room,” but the one thing I miss the most is stepping onto the ice. It’s what I call the stage, because in the arena you are surrounded by glass and 20,000 seats and that’s your stage. You are performing on that stage. It’s your job to appreciate, respect and entertain those fans in the seats. So whether I would reach through the glass and take a hat off of a kids head or grab some popcorn out of his bag or talk to a kid or score a goal. I tried to entertain and make sure that I let people know we appreciated them coming to watch. I think fans are under-appreciated in terms of how important they are to professional sports. Without fans, I think hockey would be a beer league, so I always appreciated that and understood that and always tried to thank them.
RH: You had a long 20-year NHL career, netting over 1200 points, as well as an extensive broadcasting career outside of playing. What’s next for Jr?
JR: I have a streaming network that I’m working on with a couple of Silicon Valley guys and Eric Byrnes from Major League Baseball. We are in the process of creating and finishing up software that is going to allow people to see different attitudes, different mentalities, different ways to broadcast and talk sports and have it be our voice and not have it be dictated what we say and who we are talking to. It’s going to be called No Filter Broadcast and we are going to talk to the masses the way we want to talk to the masses. We can broadcast games the way we see it and not have to worry about pissing off the powers at be which unfortunately in network television they are always concerned with.
Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with NHL Alumni showing a more personal side of the game.