Found February 10, 2012 on Fox Sports Arizona:
Miracle2
Coyotes owner Richard Burke, executive vice president of hockey operations Bobby Smith, general manager John Paddock and assistant general manager Taylor Burke had just arrived with the transplanted Winnipeg Jets in Phoenix in the summer of 1996. They liked the young talent on their roster and liked the opportune timing of their arrival. The Suns were three days away from trading Charles Barkley to Houston, ending a memorable yet unfulfilled era for the franchise. The Diamondbacks wouldnt begin play for two more seasons, nobody knew what was in store for the 1996 Arizona State football team and brash-talking coach Buddy Ryan had just been fired because the Cardinals were still the same ol' Cardinals. But the Coyotes' brain trust knew it needed something more to sell hockey in a nontraditional market. "We didnt have a face," Taylor Burke said, "an elite, exciting player that the community could rally around." Jeremy Roenick was that guy. He had posted three straight 100-plus-point seasons in Chicago before suffering a horrific left knee injury in the strike-shortened 1994-95 season on a knee-on-knee hit with towering Stars captain Derian Hatcher. Roenicks agent, Neil Abbott, had made it clear Roenick was available via trade after a few contentious years of contract squabbles with notoriously miserly Blackhawks owner William Wirtz. So the Coyotes pulled the trigger on a deal that sent center Alexei Zhamnov, forward Craig Mills and a first-round pick to Chicago. Once he touched down in Phoenix, Roenicks myriad off-ice talents were also apparent. "He was a PR dream," Coyotes longtime senior director of communications Rich Nairn said. "Any TV, radio or print request we got, he would accommodate it. Anything outside the game or the media we asked him to do, he did it. He just got it. He understood the importance of marketing hockey in this new market, and he was one of the few players who had the personality to pull it off." Contrary to popular opinion, Roenick wasnt born that way. "My wife always asks me, 'What happened to the shy, nerdy guy I met in high school? Roenick said, laughing. Roenick credits a chance encounter with hockey legend Gordie Howe for planting the seeds for who he became. Howe was playing for the old Hartford Whalers in the 1979-80 season at the Hartford Civic Center when he came over to the glass where Roenick was seated and dumped snow over the top of the glass onto Roenicks head. Howe continued to skate but looked back at Roenick again and winked. "I totally remember the way I felt when I was given some time -- the attention of a superstar -- and I took that with me my whole life," Roenick said. "I knew that if I ever got to that level, that would be a gift that could imprint on peoples lives." Roenick imprinted thousands of Valley lives. He never refused an autograph, he handed out more than his share of pucks, stick and jerseys, he talked endlessly with perfect strangers, and when the Coyotes scheduled visits to a nearby childrens hospital, Roenick was the last guy to leave, making sure hed given every kid some of his time. "None of that stuff was ever on camera. Nobody ever wrote about that," Nairn said. "He just wanted to brighten those kids days." That very public side of Roenicks personality had a downside. His teammates sometimes called him "Styles" or "Hollywood," and the media often referred to him as "P.R." instead of "J.R." -- all derisive nicknames for his love of the limelight. "Maybe I was an attention *****. Its not that I wanted it all the time, but I accepted the responsibility all the time when other guys didnt want it," Roenick said. Theres nothing wrong with being flamboyant, but if you cant go on the ice and back it up then you look pretty ridiculous. I always felt I could flash it off the ice but then bring it on the ice." Roenick never came close to matching those magical seasons he posted in Chicago with a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Part of the reason was that knee injury, which robbed him of just a fraction of his speed and recklessness. Part of it was a host of rule changes that made 100-point seasons a rarity in the NHL. Part of it was the overall talent on the Coyotes roster, which couldnt match what Roenick enjoyed in Chicago. But Jim Schoenfeld, Roenicks coach for two seasons in Phoenix, remembers a player whose style belied his talent level. "Sometimes skill players arent as willing to play the other rough and tumble parts of the game, but he was that type of player," Schoenfeld said. "He didnt shortcut the process." Schoenfeld knew right away which role he wanted Roenick to fill. "For a while in the NHL, the idea was to match your best defensive line against the other teams best offensive line, but we wanted Jeremy to go against the other teams top line because he was a great two-way player. We wanted him to outperform and outscore the other teams top talent, Schoenfeld said. "We didnt win a championship that way, but there were a whole lot of other reasons for that." One of those was a fractured jaw Roenick suffered on a hit by Derian Hatcher in the 1998-99 season as retaliation for a hit Roenick leveled on the Stars' Mike Modano that knocked Modano out of the game. "I wouldnt say it was flapping in the breeze, but you could see it was shattered and badly out of place, Schoenfeld said of Roenick's jaw. "It looked pretty ugly." It was broken in four places. Roenick played a few more shifts, including a power play, but he was out of the lineup after that. "It wasnt fractured -- it was broken completely through," he said. Schoenfeld initially told media members Roenick was out for the season, but that was a ploy intended to throw off the opposition. He had an inkling Roenick would try to return. He did, in Game 7 of the teams first-round playoff series with St. Louis. The jaw was wired shut, and so was his mouth, meaning he had to breathe solely through his nose, which required frequent blowing to clear any obstructions. Roenick understood the risks, but he was more concerned with the potential reward. "Who care if your jaw gets broken again? It will heal. You dont have too many opportunities to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "I didnt have to use my mouth or jaw to play hockey. I used my hands, my feet and my heart." The Coyotes didnt win that game, falling 1-0 in overtime, but Roenick won the hearts of Coyotes fans forever. Almost 12 years after he left via free agency, he remains one of the Valleys most popular athletes -- even as a hockey player -- and still keeps his only house here in the Valley. "Thats our home, and Im very passionate about that city and that community," he said. "Besides, I always loved playing hockey one night and playing golf the next day. That was my perfect scenario." Roenick will become the seventh player to be inducted into the Coyotes Ring of Honor on Saturday when Phoenix hosts Chicago. He joins Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Thomas Steen, Dale Hawerchuk, Teppo Numminen and Keith Tkachuk. He is one of four American-born players to score 500 or more goals. In 20 NHL seasons, he posted 513 goals, 1,216 points and 1,463 penalty minutes. In 454 games in Phoenix, he had 152 goals, 379 points, 596 penalty minutes and scores of memorable moments. "I always say that hockey is a hard way to make an easy living," Schoenfeld said. "You have to have a high level of resolve, courage and physical sacrifice, but once in a while, a player takes all of that to another level, and Jeremy did that. "It would be fair to say that he endeared himself to the fan base for the way he played, and by doing that, he really helped put hockey on the map in Phoenix."
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Roenick joins Coyotes' Ring of Honor

Jeremy Roenick entered the Coyotes' Ring of Honor having his No. 97 jersey retired on Saturday.Roenick was honored in a pregame ceremony before the Coyotes game against the Chicago Blackhawks.Roenick played eight seasons with the Blackhawks before he was acquired by the Coyotes in 1996. He played 454 games in Phoenix, collecting 152 goals, 227 assists and 379 points.The outspoken...

Coyotes honor Jeremy Roenick with Blackhawks in town

Being JR. The thought befuddles the most level-headed and rationale among us. Successful hockey player, turned commentator, with eyes on the prize of ownership. And last night, he was the honored man in a city known best for triple digit temperatures. Roenick’s comments about wanting to own the club sent ripples of speculation through the press and other observers of the dysfunctional...

Jeremy Roenick the 'fire-starter' for Phoenix Coyotes

Bickley: Jeremy Roenick was once a star in Phoenix. And he's proof that hockey can work in the desert.

Roenick, Sundin Both Honored Saturday Night

Both Mats Sundin (Toronto) and Jeremy Roenick (Phoenix) were honored by their former teams last night, as each had their number retired by their respective teams. Sundin, who played 13 season with the Maple Leafs, had his No. 13 raised high to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre, prior to the Leafs contest with the Montreal Canadiens. Over his 13 seasons in Toronto, the former...

Jeremy Roenick 'humbled' to be in Coyotes Ring of Honor

Notes: Always a flamboyant and outspoken player, Jeremy Roenick admits he was "totally blown away and humbled" when told he would be inducted as the seventh member of the Coyotes Ring of Honor.

Video- Sundin And Roenick Honored By Their Respective Teams

from NHL.com, Mats Sundin thanked his family, teammates, coaches and the fans of Toronto before a banner honoring his No. 13 was raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre prior to the Maple Leafs’ game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. The Leafs also honored Sundin, the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (420) and points (987) by having all of their players...

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks - game updates

6:30 p.m.: It's a big night for the Coyotes. They will induct Jeremy Roenick into their Ring of Honor and aim for their fifth consecutive victory against the Blackhawks. Follow our Twitter updates!

Ex-Phoenix Coyotes player part of group interested in buying team

Jeremy Roenick, the former captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, says he's now part of a group interested in buying the team.

Coyotes shut out Blackhawks for fifth consecutive win

The Phoenix Coyotes, on the night they inducted Jeremy Roenick into their Ring of Honor, increased their win streak to five games with a 3-0 shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly could have mentioned this section of the by-laws...

More intrigue in the Phoenix Coyotes sale, and by "intrigue" I mean random happenstance that concerns Jeremy Roenick. As mentioned on Puck Daddy, he was interviewed on local Phoenix radio show "Calling All Sports With Roc And Manuch" regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. He mentioned he was talking to other people who might be interested in forming an...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.