Commentary

Will Roenick's words outweigh his play?

Updated: August 7, 2009, 7:19 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

For all his shenanigans, it's hard not to believe the NHL is a poorer place today now that Jeremy Roenick has at long last hung up the blades.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Roenick
Getty ImagesJeremy Roenick had 513 goals and 703 assists in 1,363 career NHL games.

The NHL certainly will be a quieter place without Roenick.

Remember when Roenick suggested during the lockout that disgruntled NHL fans could kiss his behind?

Or when he essentially said he tanked his first postlockout season because he wanted to spite the NHL for the labor stoppage, even though the Los Angeles Kings paid him almost $5 million to score nine times in 58 games? Oh, that was a beauty.

Or when Roenick suggested USA Hockey was blackballing him when he wasn't named to the 2006 Olympic team (he scored six goals through his first 32 games of the 2005-06 season)? Ha! Good one.

More recently, Roenick mouthed off about how Detroit coach Mike Babcock was anti-American because he wouldn't play good friend Chris Chelios during the 2009 playoffs, ignoring the fact that Chelios is older than time and didn't deserve to be in the lineup. Chelios, in fact, seemed embarrassed by the episode and suggested Roenick was speaking out of turn. But that was Roenick, no?

Impetuous, fiercely competitive with an eye to self-promotion, Roenick sadly leaves the game when people will think more about what he said away from the ice than what he did on it. And that's unfortunate because, on the ice, Roenick was among the most gritty and popular players in the game.

Perhaps time will mellow the view that Roenick hung around longer than he should have and ended up a kind of weird caricature of himself.

We remember when an exasperated Roenick sent longtime Philadelphia Flyers beat writer Tim Panaccio a text message saying he was done back on Independence Day 2007. But that seemed to be another impulsive move.

As it turned out, Roenick wasn't done, at least not officially, and somehow managed to convince San Jose GM Doug Wilson he had something left to offer and squeezed two more seasons out of the Sharks.

But there were moments that made you remember that Roenick wasn't a caricature; he finishes his career trailing only Mike Modano for goals scored by an American-born player and ranks third among all Americans in total points. He scored only 14 goals in 2006-07, but 10 were game winners. In the 2007 playoffs, he produced a four-point effort in a seventh and deciding game against Calgary in the first round but managed just one point in the 11 other postseason games he played.

Overall, Roenick's career numbers (513 goals and 703 assists) and the fact that he failed to earn a Stanley Cup ring during his 1,363-game career aren't likely to get him into the Hockey Hall of Fame. (And, no, this isn't about blackballing the outspoken Roenick.)

But he almost certainly will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, which reflects Roenick's true place among a group of American NHLers who helped raise the profile of the game in the United States from the mid-1990s to today.

As much as we might have rolled our eyes at Roenick (remember when he danced the jig on the ice during an exhibition game in Las Vegas and his famous repartee with netminder Patrick Roy?), we will miss his chutzpah and bemoan the lack of such characters in the game as time passes.

And, in that time, here's hoping folks remember the substance of a player who was, in the end, far more than the sum of what he said.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE