Style and substance: The essence of J.R.
Editor’s note: FOX Sports Arizona reporter/host Todd Walsh wrote this introduction for Jeremy Roenick’s Ring of Honor ceremony before finding the mask worn by Roenick in Game 7 of the Coyotes’ playoff series against St. Louis.
A month or so ago I stood here and told you about the Captain, Keith Tkachuk, and didn’t have a problem with mentioning Jeremy Roenick in the same breath.
If you recall, I mentioned that for Keith, the only light that seemed to matter was the “Red Light,” the goal light. And that was OK. It was OK with him and with his teammates and with us.
And the reason it was OK? Because he had a linemate who took care of the rest. And chipped in more than his share of goals and assists and hits along the way.
When they were right, and when they were on, they made each other better.
And it was at times breath taking to watch.
It was, at it’s best, the crucible of what now seems like old-time hockey.
The power forward crashing the boards and the net, the play-making sharp shooter getting time and space and finishing and doing it with “Style.”
It is hard to separate the Jeremy Roenick that the rest of the NHL has in its collective memory banks from his time here in Phoenix.
His impact on the Chicago Blackhawks and their history is obvious.
His time with Philadelphia, San Jose, LA, Team USA notable as well.
There were also soap operas, cable TV, commercials and now a talking head on network television.
It’s hard to remove him from some rather personal battles as well …
I don’t think Patrick Roy was ever really listening, Jeremy, so I won’t waste my time trying to remove those Stanley Cup rings from his ears.
But we don’t have to separate JR from his time here to elsewhere. He sort of belongs to everybody in the NHL, doesn’t he?
Only those athletes that reside in the rarified air of greatness, true greatness, demand and command the spot light.
There were nights along the way that I would just shake my head and KNOW that between periods it was going to be number 97 joining us on TV for an intermission interview.
You just knew because for one reason or another there was a “moment” waiting to be captured.
A big goal …
A big hit …
A spotlight and a red light that were waiting to go off, together, commanded of course, by the one who WANTED the puck on his stick when it mattered.
Or, when disabled with a shattered jaw, it was Roenick who wanted to take the ice in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There isn’t a hockey fan in the desert who was here then that doesn’t remember what America West Arena was like when the puck dropped against the St Louis Blues that night and JR was there, with a specialized mask, ready, willing and as able as his body and his pain threshold would allow.
It was a “moment.”
That was the essence of Jeremy Roenick.
And then, of course, he was ready, willing and able to stop and talk about it, with a smile on his face, a gleam in his eye, a perfectly crafted wave in his hair … “STYLES” knowing that you were at home and wanting you to know that he enjoyed doing it as much as you enjoyed watching it.
The great sport of hockey, as we have sometimes forgotten, is entertainment as much as it is a business.
Jeremy Roenick delivered on both sides of that spectrum.
He was the first real face of this franchise as it moved forward from its former northern outpost.
As they say, he wore it well.
We were all lucky to have him around back then.
In so many ways the acquisition of Jeremy Roenick helped put the then brand new Phoenix Coyotes on the local and national map … where they and he still reside.
His career spans far beyond his time here, we can’t really separate it.
We don’t want to.
We just know, now … in a matter of moments, that when we walk into this beautiful building, and when he does … we can all look up and remember and honor his time as a Phoenix Coyote.
Because in a matter of moments, Jeremy Roenick will be inducted into the Coyotes Ring of Honor.