Jeremy Roenick watches from the bench during a game against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
In an upcoming edition of The Hockey News magazine, a group of NHL observers voted Jeremy Roenick the best interview in the league as part of our Best of Everything in Hockey series.
And when the veteran San Jose Sharks center was informed of the distinction, he immediately began demonstrating why he got it.
“Brain sharp,” Roenick told THN. “I think that’s what I’ve been. And I’m not finished yet. I got a lot more left in the repertoire.”
The affable Boston native – who turns 39 on Saturday and knows his time in the NHL is nearing an end – was equally frank when asked how young NHLers could step into the spotlight and carry the torch he and Brett Hull shared proudly as the league’s most colorful players for more than a decade.
“There are two ways players can be better interviews,” Roenick said. “No. 1: speak your mind. If you feel passionately about something, then grow a pair, grow a thick skin, and say so. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to say the wrong thing. If it comes from your heart, if you know that you’re right, step up and let people hear what you have to say.
“And No. 2: for christ’s sake – for christ’s sake – show some (expletive) enthusiasm during interviews,” Roenick said. “I see too many interviews where young guys say the same thing night after night after night. It’s (expletive).
“You know what, guys? Don’t just give us the usual clichés. Don’t do interviews where your eyes are just staring off into space when they should be looking into the camera. Say something funny once in a while! And if somebody scores a sick goal, it’s OK to say ‘damn, my teammate scored a sick goal!’ ”
As for potential replacements for himself and Hull, Roenick pointed to a pair of young players from his former team in Chicago.
“I think and I hope guys like Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg will learn that there’s a way they can be brash and emotional when they’re away from the ice,” Roenick said. “It’s got to be for the right reasons, of course, but anybody who says there’s no place in our sport for honesty and personality is out of their minds.”
Although Sean Avery has provided an example of a player taking freedom of speech to unacceptable extremes this season, Roenick said there is still much room left for NHLers to let their personalities shine.
“You can’t get personal in terms of race or gender, those kind of things,” said Roenick, who is about halfway through the rehabilitation process for a surgically repaired shoulder that has sidelined him since Dec. 11. “But there is a way to say the right things while still looking like you give a damn.
“You can say the right things with conviction, with action, with emotion. That’s where we should be at as players and as a league, instead of being a league where guys just take the easy way out in front of the mics and cameras 95 percent of the time.”
Roenick also understands why hockey fans have taken more to the exuberance of Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin than the businesslike demeanor of Penguins cornerstone Sidney Crosby.
“Absolutely, it is the reason why he’s more popular,” Roenick said. “You know, Sidney reminds me a lot of Wayne Gretzky in the way he deals with the media. It’s like he’s watched tapes of Wayne as a kid and memorized all his lines. Wayne never went out of the ordinary in terms of what he said, and that was fine for him. But as a league you definitely need some of your key guys to step up and be colorful.
“Then you look at Ovechkin – his heart is on his sleeve, he’s out there smiling all the time, he’s talking during games, he’s jumping in the air after he scores, he’s not afraid to say what he wants to say during interviews.
“Every time he’s out there, he’s showing the people what a joy it is to play hockey. We need as many guys like him as we can get.”
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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