In the short seven minutes my co-host Rob Pizzo interviewed Jeremy Roenick, he managed to give us some gold on some controversial topics.

The first statement was a response to what Georges Laraque said in his book – that some NHL players are using steroids:

I think the steroids, I think he was referring to two different things, one, I think maybe in the late 80′s / early 90′s when the fighters were as prevalent, they were a dime a dozen, there might have been a little bit more of…something to happen. I can tell you right now that steroids is not an issue in the National Hockey League whatsoever. There is no steroids whatsoever, across the board in the National Hockey League.

JR then goes on to say that he thinks Georges was referring more to painkillers, though I don’t agree that he was.

If you missed it, last September I wrote this piece for Puck Daddy. In it, I explained that I once saw a teammate’s steroid paraphenalia. I explained that I’ve had drunken conversations with teammates that have used. I explained that there is zero testing in the ECHL or AHL. I pointed out that I never got tested over four years of NCAA D1 hockey. I point out the five month no-testing window NHLers have, starting at the end of the regular season. That sort of stuff.

My concession to JR’s awfully-definitive statement is this: I never played a shift in the NHL. I would have no idea, and he would.

That usually settles an argument like this, but in this instance, JR is wrong. Hell, I’ve played with a kid who used the stuff who eventually made it, so there’s at least one. If it’s there in the minors, it has to be there in the NHL, doesn’t it?

The absoluteness JR delivers that line with reeks of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” (on behalf of the NHL), it’s so politician-y. It’s like he wants to nip questions like that in the bud before NHL hockey’s great name gets tarnished.

The guy who said it in his book was a part of that world (the tough guy lifestyle) more than JR would have been, so I’m more prone to believing his take on steroid use in the NHL. For me, that was somewhat validating (which why Roenick’s response caught me so off-guard).

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Prior to saying that, he had agreed with Georges Laraques take on a different matter: Wayne Gretzky wasn’t a very good coach.

 ”You gotta understand – it’s very difficult to be Wayne Gretzky. It’s tough to be his life, it’s tough to be his business, it’s tough to have his endorsement deals, it’s tough to have his time. He only has so much that he needs to throw around to everybody.

To be a coach, with an average team, with his time frame…. No, he wasn’t a great coach. I’ll say it too, he wasn’t. He’s a great guy – he’s a phenomenal ambassador for Canada. But he had no chance of being a great coach, or being a good coach – because being Wayne Gretzky is a full-time job. He left a lot of it to his assistant coaches, and unfortunately when you’re not as hands-on as much you need to be as a head coach, you’re not gonna win.

And Wayne, he doesn’t have that capability because of his….his “icon-ness,” if I can say that. It’s nothing against Wayne Gretzky – it’s just….it’s his life.

I’ve heard many people say Wayner wasn’t a good coach, but I’ve never heard such a unique viewpoint on why. It makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

Being Wayne Gretzky would be a full-time job. Every time you walk by people, they want autographs. They want to tell you how awed they were of you back in the day. They just want….your time.

Everybody does. Commercials, agents, family, players, investors, hustlers, you name it. And you’re supposed to hunker down and focus on teaching a bunch of guys to play who can’t see the game nearly as well as you could? That wouldn’t be easy, if even possible.

….Also, he was rich, living in Phoenix, and his playing legacy was cemented – I’m sure that hurts a guys passion and ability to put in the extra time too.

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All in all, a major thank you to Jeremy Roenick. It was an honour to have a legend (NHL ’94 legend too!) be a part of our show.

Comments (12)

  1. Jeremy has always been a hard line kinda guy, maybe this is his “Didn’t do it, not gonna acknowledge it” response. I do kinda wonder though if some of the guys who did it to get into the NHL didn’t find it necessary to continue once they were there…since at that point you’ve got the professional trainer etc. telling you what to do to get into perfect shape.

    Any chance you’re still in contact with/good enough friends with that guy from the minors to ask?

  2. I dunno, JB. I think Roenick is wrong to issue a blanket statement like this, that there are no steroids whatsoever. I think it’s likely that someone is looking for an extra edge. That said, I think we should avoid a potential overreaction about the subject. I don’t think we’re at the baseball level, where there are superstars breaking long standing records thanks, in most part, to the juice. One cannot shove a needle into your backside and suddenly become a 50 goal scorer. For that reason, I think NHL players have less of a motivation to use steroids as opposed to other sports.

  3. One can also not shove a needle into their backside and become a 50 home run hitter.

    How often do we here about guys not having quite enough strength to handle the step up to the NHL? There’s about a half million reasons for them to consider juicing. How about the guy trying to recover from an injury before he slips through the cracks?

    I think a lot of people are naive to what steroids/PEDs are and what they can do for you. Many are almost the perfect substance for a sport that is based upon short bursts of intense energy and power and is played over a long grinding season.

    • The thing is, I don’t think everyone says that they just aren’t strong enough. Look at Brian Gionta or Scott Gomez. Small guys, not jacked, but are NHLers due to their skating and scoring ability. I’d surmise that skating keeps people out of the NHL moreso than strength. Unless you’re a fourth liner, there’s more to hockey than going out there and being a brute for 45 seconds at a time.

      I’m not saying that it’s unlikely for the fourth liners of the NHL to be using PEDs. I am saying it’s unlikely that Ilya Kovalchuk is somewhere calling “The Situation” looking for a magic cure for his ailing groin in a run down area of Jersey.

  4. Amen, Ryan. A-freaking Men.

  5. The greatest benefit steroids and HGH offer to professional athletes is the ability to recuperate quickly. It’s not about bulking up or some magical power that suddenly enables an average talent to become great.

    Ryan was spot-on with his assessment. It takes a special kind of naivety to deny that there is use of PEDs in hockey.

  6. Right or Wrong, the NHL (and the world for that matter) NEEDS more Jeremy Roenicks.

  7. Maybe Gretzky needed to spend more time worrying about his players. I recall one player, when he found out he was a scratch, turned around and walked out of the building, went to a nearby bar to hook up with a couple of friends. That player? Jeremy Roenick.

  8. Steroids might not let them play harder, but it might let them play more games without being injured, or play more years than previous players.

  9. If you are that close, but not quite there to make the next step; it would be awfully tempting. Whether it is D-III vs D-I, ECHL vs AHL, AHL vs NHL.

  10. I love the game, but for people to insist that there are no ‘juicers’ in the NHL is akin to other people insisting that Phoenix, Dallas, Columbus, and Nashville have always been profitable and solvent NHL franchises with no need of relocation or financial assistance. Steve Macintyre is a former olympic figure skater, oh, and OV’s performance doesn’t drop off significantly every olympic year he just takes it easier on every other team every four years because he’s just a really nice guy getting ready for a career in face modelling.

  11. Roenick is certainly a legend. I love how he’s always spoke his mind – even when it has nipped him in the butt at times.

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