Jul 24, 2010, 12:15 PM EDT
When Jeremy Roenick finally decided to hang up his skates, it seemed like he ushered in the end of an era in the NHL It appeared that the days of brash, outspoken and ultra-skilled hockey players were over. (At least from an “on the record” standpoint, as my guess is that most NHL players are a little less “aww shucks” when they don’t have a microphone in front of them.)
While I’m one of the many people interested in hockey who fail to be impressed by the yell-happy, seemingly primitive coaching styles of guys like “Iron” Mike Keenan, Roenick says that the coach “scared him” into becoming the player he was. NHL.com has the story of how a 19-year-old Roenick reacted after Keenan intimidated him into finishing his checks.
So Roenick hopped on the ice his very next shift and transformed into a human missile — despite the fact he weighed just 158 pounds.
“For fear of my career, I went on the ice and starting hurling my body at everything I could possibly get at, skating as hard as I could,” he said. “I threw my body from one side to the other, just crushing guys. And you know who enjoyed that — the fans. They grasped the way I played and every time I hit someone, the fans erupted and that became my shtick, my personality on the ice. On top of that, I could also score goals.”
It was a career-changing moment for Roenick, who took Keenan’s advice to heart and parlayed it into an incredibly productive 20 seasons in the League.
“He has the skills, the drive, the intensity, and is determined to be one of the best,” Keenan said of Roenick in 1991. “I think he plays a lot like the old-time players. In the playoffs a couple of years ago, we were playing St. Louis. Jeremy had his front teeth knocked out by a high stick (from Blues defenseman Glen Featherstone). That meant a major penalty. To ensure that a major penalty was called, Jeremy kept the teeth (chips) on his tongue and skated over to show the referee. Then he came to the bench, and as a 19-year-old, he came back as a leader. He said to the players, ‘Let’s get the job done.'”
Roenick kept the teeth “chips” on his tongue to make sure his team earned the chance at a major penalty? Yeah, hockey players are tough. Wow.
Again, I have my qualms with the “strict disciplinarian” approach to coaching, but every once in a while such rough treatment can bring out the best in a player. Maybe he didn’t win a Stanley Cup, but Jeremy Roenick made the most of his time in the NHL and Keenan is one of the people he thanks the most for his successful career.
Even if it cost him some teeth.
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