August 05, 2009
News broke yesterday that Jeremy Roenick(notes) would announce the end of his 20-year NHL career at a press conference on Thursday, and that media event has been confirmed by Roenick on his Web site, RoenickLife.com.
The fact that Roenick has a Web site, and a blog that stirred up some controversy last season, is another reminder that we're not just talking about a hockey player retiring here; although his career numbers will certainly put him in the Hall of Fame conversation.
We're talking about the kind of crossover celebrity the NHL has rarely produced in the last three decades. Some of Roenick's fame is due to happy accidents during the course of Roenick's career, but most of it is due to the fact that he's one of the most distinctive (and, at times, divisive) personalities in the history of the game. There's a reason why so many fans are clamoring for JR to get involved with the NHL's television coverage, especially in the U.S.: He's compelling, memorable and unpredictable; in short, he's what the NHL isn't on television, especially in the U.S.
Roenick's legacy on the ice will be discussed at length in the next few days. Our focus here is off the ice, where Roenick's made his mark everywhere from network dramas to commercials to films to, perhaps most of all, video games.
Here are the top 10 pop culture "moments" for Jeremy Roenick.
10. The Chris Rock crash on Craig Ferguson
Jeremy Roenick was an outstanding talk show guest (more on that later) who appeared on "The Late Late Show" in 2007, dancing (more on that later, too) with host Craig Ferguson after his introduction.
The interview began with the Scottish comic admitting that he knows exactly one NHL player, former defenseman Glen Featherstone of the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. Roenick was about to tell the audience why this was significant when a rather high-profile comedian crashed the party:
Perhaps for the first time in his adult life, Roenick said he was speechless after Chris Rock's appearance. Well, until he muttered, "That son of a [expletive] just ruined my spot."
9. Jeremy Roenick sings Enrique Iglesias
On the outstanding "Off The Record" on TSN, Roenick admitted to being an amateur singer with a thing for the dulcet tones of Enrique Iglesias. Which led to this performance of "Hero" that indicates JR may have spent a little too much of his life in front of a mirror singing into a hairbrush:
Dare we say it: That performance was muy caliente. Although not nearly as soulful as him singing "Tricky" by Run DMC.
8. The Sweater
Certain players have the ability to transcend their sport when it comes to the name on the back of the sweater. For a generation of hockey fans, "Roenick 27" was as synonymous with the Chicago Blackhawks' jersey as Bobby Hull's No. 9 was for an older generation. He would go on to wear No. 97 with the Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings before flipping back to No. 27 during his final tours with the San Jose Sharks.
7. Lord of the Dance
Roenick's time in L.A. brought out the vaudevillian in him, as he entertained the crowd during a preseason game with this dazzling display of dance. Seriously, we hadn't seen disco moves like this since that bar scene in "Airplane!"
Naturally, this eventually led a campaign by Sharks fans to land Roenick on "Dancing With the Stars."
6. The Go-To Hockey Player for Sports Talk Shows
How many national sports talk shows has Sidney Crosby(notes) appeared on? Or Joe Sakic(notes) or Steve Yzerman, during their playing days? Fact is that Roenick was, in many ways, the most accessible hockey player for mainstream sports talk shows both in television and radio. He's appeared with Jim Rome in both genres, as well as television appearances on "PTI," with Dennis Miller and a few free-wheeling turns on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period."
For better or worse, he was the casual fan's glimpse at a hockey player for much of his career.
While Avery learns the ropes of the fashion industry, Roenick helped found Muze Clothing several years ago and has "JR Style" apparel on his Web site; including this T-shirt that celebrates Roenick's most iconic moment in pop culture (uh, spoiler alert?).
4. Commercial Comedy Star
Roenick has appeared in several ads through the years, most notably getting name-checked in Nike's famous "goalie panhandler" spot in which a Boston Bruins netminder complains that Roenick's ferocious offense left him destitute.
But as we pointed out yesterday here on Puck Daddy, it's Roenick's battle with Tracy Morgan of "30 Rock" fame for ESPN's hockey video game that remains his commercial classic.
You just haven't lived life until you've heard "Jeremy Roenick" enunciated in the traditional Tracy Morgan dialect.
3. Jeremy Roenick, Emmy Award contender
One look at Roenick's Internet movie database page shows that he's basically hockey's answer to Reginald Vel Johnson of "Die Hard" fame, in the sense that he always plays a cop or security officer of some type. He was a desk sergeant twice on the CBS detective show "Hack." He was a security guard in "Leverage," as seen here in a sexually tense scene:
OK, maybe he wasn't always playing the same role. He was an assistant coach on "Ghost Whisperer" and played an airline travel agent on "One Life To Live."
Plus, on the HBO sports sitcom "Arli$$," he had perhaps his toughest role: playing Jeremy Roenick.
2. "It's not so much me as it's Roenick. He's good."
Yes, we've arrived at "Swingers," the 1996 indie classic that transformed Roenick from hockey icon into pop culture icon. Trent (Vince Vaughn) uses Roenick and the Blackhawks against his buddy and Gretzky's Kings on "NHL 94" for the Sega Genesis.
The profanity-laden scene is remembered for perfectly capturing the spirit of 1990s video game hockey, from winning the Cup "against the computer with the off-sides off" to taunting a friend with an instant replay of a sweet goal.
But it's most remembered for Vaughn's Roenick love and for "I'm gonna make Gretzky's head bleed," even if it was another virtual Blackhawk and not Roenick that finally made The Great One gush.
Here's Roenick in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, on his "Swingers" fame:
RG: Have you ever met Vince Vaughn and talked to him about that line?
JR: Yeah, he was actually a big fan of mine because he used to watch the games. He told me he put me in that movie totally out of respect. And everything he does, he tries to involve me with it. In "Wedding Crashers," his fake name was Jeremy in the movie. That was pretty cool. He's a big fan of mine and a great dude. Great guy.
Which brings us to ...
No. 1: Jeremy Roenick, Video Game Hall of Famer
OK, so he didn't get his name on the Stanley Cup, never led the league in a significant offensive category and never won a major player award.
But he's the fourth-best video game athlete ever. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
As "Swingers" indicated, Roenick's legacy in pop culture for a generation of fans is on their home gaming consoles and in their EA Sports hockey cartridges. Via FanHouse, here's a glimpse at Roenick's video game dominance:
Mike Tyson will always have "Punch Out." Tony Hawk will always have "Pro Skater." And Jeremy Roenick is "NHL 94."