Bitter Roenick picks Hawks to win it all
Jeremy Roenick admitted harboring some lingering resentment over being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks almost 14 years ago, and that's why -- if forced -- he would pull for the Philadelphia Flyers in a Stanley Cup finals series against the Hawks.
But he also admits that he thinks the Hawks will in fact win it all this season.
Roenick played the first eight of his 20 NHL seasons in Chicago before being traded on Aug. 16, 1996 to the Phoenix Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills. He said recently on a Philadelphia radio station that if forced, he'd root for the Flyers.
"I said if you had a gun to my head, I said I did have to [root for the Flyers]," Roenick said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I didn't want to leave in 1996. If I have to choose, then I have to choose, that's just what it is."
Roenick currently is an analyst for NBC.
"I love Flyer fans, I love Chicago fans," he said. "Chicago was great to me. Philly was great to me.
"I'm not choosing anybody unless you put a gun to my head, and then I'd have to have a little bit of a choice."
The Hawks lead the San Jose Sharks 2-0 in the Western Conference finals. The Sharks were the last of five teams for whom Roenick played. Roenick said he'd also root for the Sharks against the Hawks.
"If you put a gun to my head, I got to go with the Sharks," Roenick said. "[Sharks GM] Doug Wilson gave me the most unbelievable opportunity at the end of my career, to revitalize and finish on a high note.
"When the fans heard I was going to San Jose, they were like what are you crazy? What's he going to do for us? And then I got there and they treated me like I was their second son."
Roenick was critical of Hawks goaltending during the season and questioned whether it was good enough to lead Chicago to a championship. He said Antti Niemi has proven to be a big-time goalie.
"Absolutely, he has come in and taken all the criticism about the goaltending right out of the equation," Roenick said. "When we were talking earlier in the year about not knowing whether [Cristobal] Huet was going to be the goaltender, whether he was capable, I don't think we threw Niemi in there because we didn't know.
"He's a young goaltender, sometimes that is his best friend. It's just about being very very confident and going in there and setting a name for yourself. He's done that far and away, more than anyone has expected."
Despite his hard feelings, Roenick expects the Blackhawks to win their first title since 1960-61.
"I think this is the year of the Hawk," Roenick said. "I think the way they look, I don't think anybody can beat them.
"San Jose has had a tough time beating them. I can't see anyone beating them."
But that doesn't mean his heart is with the Hawks.
"I'm not going to lie to you. I am an analyst. I call it like I see it," he said. "Like it or hate it, I got thrown out of Chicago in 1996 against my wishes. I didn't like that either, so touché."