The man knows how to work a crowd

Jeremy Roenick is truly one of the ultimate hockey characters of our time. From his on ice dancing, his emotions after one of his former teams topped another one of his former teams despite the efforts of Mike Milbury to totally kill the mood, his back and forth with Patrick Roy, and all the other moments which have since immortalized themselves on the king-maker that is the internet, JR is one of a kind.

What often gets lost in his flair for entertaining is the immense talent Roenick actually was. He was the third American born player to score 500 goals in his career, he scored 50 goals twice, finished with 40 twice and had at least 20 in nine other seasons. When you consider the rough and tumble game he played (from 1993-94 to 2000-0 he recorded at least 100 PIMs a season), you can only imagine the type of numbers he could have put up had he been more concerned with finesse. Let’s also not forget the offensive constraints of the era in general and the time he spent with a Coyotes team that was substandard more often than not.

The Coyotes recognized Roenick on Saturday night, adding his name to their ring of honour and retiring his number 97. The honour was obviously very special for Roenick, and was only enhanced by the fact the Blackhawks were the opposition of record, the team he began his career with.

With Chicago media in the house, Roenick was asked about his aspirations to have his number 27 retired in Chicago. He was frank as always.

“They just drag their feet a little bit slower than these guys,” Roenick joked prior to his Ring of Honor ceremony on Saturday night. “Without question that’s a huge goal of mine, to (have my number) retired in Chicago. It’s the best honor as an athlete, with exception of the Hall of Fame. It’s the best thing that you can have bestowed upon you.”

“Both teams are special to me, no question,” he said. “Twenty-three years ago I was 155 pounds coming out of high school, it was unheard of for a team to draft anyone out of high school and Chicago took a chance on me. They’ll forever be in my heart. To be so passionate about one city and then be traded to another and feeling that same passion (for it), that’s a special thing.”

“I think we have a good enough relationship after 20 years that we’ll get there,” Roenick said. “But tonight it’s about Phoenix and how I appreciate being here and how much I love being here.”

Here’s some video from Roenick’s presser in Phoenix.

The case for Roenick is compelling. Not including his 20 game stint out of junior, Roenick’s worst offensive seasons with the Blackhawks were his rookie season in which he potted 26 goals, and the lockout shortened 94-95 season. Every other season in Chicago, Roenick potted AT LEAST 30 goals and this includes his to 40 and 50 goal campaigns respectively. The man was a monster in Chicago and his love of the team is clear.

He also has an opinion or two on the current version of the Blackhawks (JR? An opinion? Go figure). When asked about their current struggles he replied simply:

“I think they gotta get their ass going,” Roenick said. “Every team goes through that. They’re a strong team, they have a great coach. They’ll be all right.”

We need to give this movement some legs, folks. Simply put, Jeremy Roenick is a legend of our time, on the ice and off the ice. His name and number ought to be hanging from the roof of the United Center. Obviously it won’t happen tomorrow, but the more we pester the Blackhawks, the sooner it could happen regardless of how tricky these things are. (See what I did with this segue?)

There’s only ever going to be one JR and that one JR needs to take his rightful place up top with the rest of Chicago’s legends.

Let’s get JR’s number retired in Chicago.