Jeremy Roenick: One fan’s timeline


**Begin Fanboy Rant**

In lieu of Jeremy Roenick’s 500th goal, I spent some time reflecting on my JR fandom, which really has followed my whole hockey obsession in terms of timeline. You can put together how old I am based on this too, if you’re really curious.

1990: I discover hockey by accident on SportsChannel. The Blackhawks are on, and there’s hitting and scoring and all sorts of cool stuff. Suddenly, baseball just doesn’t seem that interesting anymore. San Jose was on the cusp of getting an NHL franchise, but to me, the more and more I watched hockey, there was something about that Blackhawks squad that just seemed really cool. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought so since someone in my junior high had a Belfour jersey (but he was kind of a weird prick).

1991: JR scores 41 goals. I’m not a stats hound yet at this point, but at that age, you just need a player to latch on to. This was before his ultra-dominating video game year in Sega Genesis NHL 94, though #27 on the original NHL Hockey (91-92 season, which meant that I got it for Christmas ’91) was my go-to guy. My older brother (who was a Red Wing fan) helped me match up our Upper Deck hockey cards with the numbers on the Sega Genesis rosters — remember, no NHLPA license back then, so it was just numbers.

1992: I try to order a Chicago Blackhawks Starter jacket at my local sports shop. The morons there call me two months after the order was made to tell me that my BULLS jacket is in. We refuse to pay while the guy gives me a weird look, wondering why some kid would want a Blackhawks jacket. Oh, and the Sharks finish up their first (1991-1992) season with some dude named Doug Wilson on the blue line.

1993: I get my first pair of rollerblades and hockey stick. My brother plays goal in our backyard with some recycling bins as the net and some catcher’s gear while I act out a pre-cursor to today’s shootouts. Except every shooter is Jeremy Roenick with the occasionial Steve Larmer thrown in. Nearly fifteen years later, I’m a much better skater with my on-ice team, but I still can’t shoot worth crap.

1994: We go to visit my uncle in Detroit and for the first time in my life, I see hockey stuff in stores. Holy crap, this is awesome. I buy two Jeremy Roenick posters while my brother hauls off a buttload of Wings stuff, including a Sergei Fedorov poster that’s still in his old room at my parent’s house.

1995: The lockout ends and our cable is out for ESPN’s first broadcast. I am pissed off. I also remember David Letterman making a crack during his monologue asking the crowd why they’re at his studio taping when the Rangers game was going on. Yes, the NHL was indeed pretty hot back then. I also get Internet access for the first time through my awesome 14.4k modem and I join in the Blackhawks usenet group. A hot topic of discussion all season is Roenick’s reconstructed knee. His first home game after injury is shown on ESPN, and I remember the Hawks faithful giving JR’s first shift (he didn’t start) a rousing ovation. I realise that NHL2Night is the greatest television show in the history of time — even better than Seinfed.

1996: As the playoffs begin, Darryl Sutter puts together a line of Roenick, old pal Tony Amonte, and Bernie Nicholls. I tell my friends that I think from top to bottom, the only team that can beat the Avalanche is the Hawks. The Hawks take the Avs to overtime several times but fall in six games, and it’s the series probably best remembered for Patrick Roy’s “Stanley Cup rings in my ears” comment to JR.

During the off-season, Bill Wirtz assures Hawks fans that JR will be signed, which doesn’t really calm us down in the usenet group. My parents and friends give me a Roenick jersey and a Chris Chelios t-shirt for high school graduation, and a few weeks later, Roenick is traded to the Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov, Craig Mills, and a 1st Rounder. Zhamnov instantly earns my hatred by taking #26 and claiming to be “One better than Jeremy Roenick.” The Coyotes sign Roenickfor numbers that aren’t that much different from Zhamnov’s. My Hawks fandom begins its long free-fall into purgatory (though like many ex-Hawks fans, they’re catching my interest again).

Side note: During that year, I watched at least part of every playoff game broadcast on ESPN/ESPN2. Random memories include getting KFC during intermission of the Blues/Wings game where Steve Yzerman hit the overtime winner and the fact that my friends wanted to go see The Rock with Sean Connery rather than watch Colorado/Florida Game 4 (in pre-Tivo days, I taped it and watched it late that night).

I move into my college dorm and my neighbor two-doors down is a freakin’ Red Wings fan. As a token of friendship, he gives me his copy of ESPN’s 1996-97 hockey guide. Many, many, many, many games of NHL 96 and NHL 97 are played between him, my roommate, our future roommate, and myself. The Coyotes, with Roenick and Keith Tkachuk, become my video game team of choice, though Team USA is good too (even though JR didn’t play on the World Cup squad).

1997: At a random Target by Sacramento (I went to school in nearby Davis), I find a Starting Lineup display with Roenick and Yzerman. JR is wearing #27, not #97. I still have this, and my Yzerman-loving friend has one in his house too. During Phoenix’s first-round series shown on the NHL on Fox, I go to our dorm lounge to watch (no TV for me); I know that the Stanley Cup playoffs start earlier than the NBA, so I strategically stakeout control of the TV. When some basketball guys come to watch hoops, I’ve got JR and the Yotes on. They ask me, “Who the hell are the Phoenix Coyotes?”

1999: JR carves up Tony Amonte’s face over what fans have come to speculate as soap opera-esque drama. I see the incident at a local bar after using my brother’s ID to get in; at first, the highlights are on ESPN and I do a double-take when I realize that it’s best buds Roenick and Amonte screaming at each other.

2000: Some friends and I go down to LA for a Coyotes/Kings game at Staples center. My aforementioned Hasek-friend fan is wearing a Ziggy Palffy t-shirt and making friends with the drunk Kings fans in our row. When Roenick scores, I stand up and yell a lot, confusing the hell out of the little Kings-fan kid in front of me.

During the off-season, JR is a regular at a celebrity golf tournament in Tahoe. My friend Jen happens to be working in Tahoe post-graduation for the summer and she sees someone who she thinks is cute singing at a karaoke bar. With a little liquid courage in her, she runs up and grabs his ass, only later to find out that it’s JR — a name she would have never recognized had I not constantly talked about him in college with Jen’s hockey-loving roommate (a fellow I still run into at the Shark tank). Months later for my birthday, she sends me a JR phot with her handprints on it and the caption, “The hands that grabbed Jeremy Roenick’s ass.”

2001: I’m back in LA for my buddy’s bachelor party and we’re speculating about where Roenick could sign as a free agent. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the Sharks while my friends laugh me off. I tell them that honestly, I can be ok with anywhere as long as it’s not Philly or Detroit. Literally minutes later, one of my friends comes into the room to say that JR signs with Philly. That same trip, one of my friends feels my pain as Dominik Hasek signs with Detroit.

2002: We’re making plans to go to the celebrity golf tournament in Tahoe but unfortunately, my grandfather passes away. During the weekend, my buddies call to say that they spotted JR at a card table, shook his hand, and mentioned me. JR told them to call me and let me know that he hoped I was doing better. What a guy.

2005: JR makes the infamous “Kiss my ass” statement. My fellow Roenick-fan friend gives up on JR and tells me that I can have JR in my cursory “Last fantasy pick” spot (in our league, we usually leave the last spot open to a beloved over-the-hill player).

August 2007: I’m having a family squable about plans for my wedding in a week when I get an instant message from a friend telling me that JR signs with the Sharks. Family squables are put aside for just a few minutes as I try to figure out if my friends are pulling my leg. They’re not. A few days later, I tell my friends that I’ll get a Roenick jersey this season; even though getting someone’s jersey usually curses them into a season from hell (if you’ve read the blog long enough, you know I’ve lamented the jersey curse for a long, long time), we reason that really, it can’t be any worse than last season for JR, so maybe it’ll reverse-curse him.

September 2007: Literally one day after my honeymoon, the Sharks are having their annual meet-and-greet for season ticket holders. I bring my old Hawks jersey with me and lose any sort of professionalism that I may have earned with my FoxSports writing gig by being as giddy as a schoolgirl in line to meet Roenick. I ask if he’s got another 50-goal season left in him, and he responds by saying, “Maybe, if they put me on a line with Joe.” I don’t fanboy geek out too much, but he does sign my hat even though I didn’t ask him to, just cause he’s a cool dude.

November 10, 2007: After a few weeks of research, I finally figure out the best place to buy a customized Roenick jersey. I put the order in that afternoon; that evening, Roenick scores #500.

Coincidence? I think not. Screw you, jersey curses. Go JR.

**End Fanboy Rant**


3 Responses to “Jeremy Roenick: One fan’s timeline”

  1. 1 Loser Chris

    A weird prick with a Belfour jersey? Makes perfect sense to me.

    By the way, if you take that story, replace JR with Ron Francis and make everything happen a year earlier then you basically have my life story. Complete with hatred for Detroit and Philly.

  2. 2 Mike Chen

    You had a friend grab Ron Francis’ ass? Sweet!

  3. 3 Loser Chris

    No, but I almost got to meet Ronnie Franchise when the Pens played in San Jose during the ’93-’94 season. I would have met him for sure the next season but then they didn’t come out because of the lockout.

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