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Jaws: The Jeremy Roenick Story

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup yesterday. They beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in Chicago, winning the series 4-2. They have now won three Stanley Cups in the last six years. This is an unparalleled record of success in 21st century hockey and a data point that should instantly squash any questions about whether they’re a “dynasty.”

Prediction: This data point will, nevertheless, be endlessly debated by sports jaw-flappers and hockey Twitter in the coming days.

Ignore this vapid discussion. Let’s pay attention to what matters: Did Jeremy Roenick keep his composure?

(Strong jaw line.)

Jeremy Roenick is one of the most colorful characters in the modern history of the sport, and his personality is an inside joke among hockey people. He’s the kind of guy who will pie you in the middle of an interview, or try to fight the meanest guy in hockey, or walk off the set of a live studio broadcast because the dude next to him speaks French and he can’t handle that.

In 2010, when the Blackhawks won the first championship of this obvious dynasty, Jeremy Roenick was a commentator in the NBC Sports booth. The ‘Hawks — his alma mater — were now a high-energy and high-skill team introducing the next era of the game, with all the zeal of a tech startup. But JR’s quivering jaw couldn’t hide what he was really thinking.

“It’s the Chicago Blackhawks, man. I didn’t get to do that. It’s pretty unbelievable.”

JR did a lot in his career, but he didn’t get to do that. When he busted into the league in the early ’90s with the Blackhawks, he burst onto the scoring charts to hang out with hockey royalty like Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, and Mario Lemieux. His game was manic, physical, full of trash-talk from his ever-flapping jaws; worst of all, he could back it up by scoring.

He even made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1992, only to get swept by Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

Roenick left the ‘Hawks in 1996, wandering from team to team in search of the championship that would seem inevitable for a superstar. He kept scoring. He kept banging, racking up 13 concussions, and taking hits like this one that obliterated his jaw:

Roenick never caught his white whale. Four teams and 12 years later, JR hung ’em up in 2009. Final stat line: 513 career goals (37th all-time), 1216 points (42nd all-time), 13 concussions (a lot), zero Stanley Cups (not a lot). He’s one of the greatest American hockey players ever…but remember how Jordan, Bird, and Magic wouldn’t let Barkley play poker with them, because he didn’t have the rings? That’s Jeremy Roenick. Forever outside the hockey pantheon.

So. Now we understand why JR’s personality belongs on TV. And we understand why homie gets a little flustered when the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup every other damn year and he’s gotta be on TV to talk about it. Let’s see how he did last night.

I know.

Oof.

Ouch.

Better. Good jaw work. You know what, we’ll take it.


thumb_Saqib-Rahim
SAQIB RAHIM | @SaqibSansU

Like many fans, Saqib Rahim is the product of his sports traumas. The 49ers losing, year after year, to Green Bay in the late 1990s. USA Hockey losing to Canada in the gold medal game of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver โ€“ in overtime, no less. The San Jose Sharks perennially discovering new depths of failure, such as becoming only the 4th team in history to choke away a 3-0 series lead. But itโ€™s all good. Heโ€™s over it. They helped make him the man he is today, and they made him curious about why sports are so engrossing and important to us. They helped him realize that sports are about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

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