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updated: 12/13/2012 5:32 PM

Roenick's book delivers hard-hitting stories

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  • Mark Black/mblack@dailyherald.comRetired National Hockey League great Jeremy Roenick answers questions from fans before signing copies of his new book "J.R. My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey" at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

      Mark Black/mblack@dailyherald.comRetired National Hockey League great Jeremy Roenick answers questions from fans before signing copies of his new book "J.R. My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey" at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

 
 

There was never any doubt where Jeremy Roenick stood on a topic.

He was both bold and brash when he came to the Blackhawks in 1989. You wanted an opinion on something? You went to No. 27's locker and never came away disappointed.

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His outspoken style didn't sit well with many veteran teammates such as Chris Chelios, Dirk Graham, Steve Smith and Greg Gilbert, but how could you stay mad at a guy who backed up his words with his play on the ice?

Roenick twice scored 50 goals to become only the third Hawk to do so, joining Bobby Hull and Al Secord. No Hawk has done it since Roenick bagged 50 in 1992-93.

Three times he topped 100 points, which only three others have done in franchise history: Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard.

He played tough and he played hurt.

In his new book, "J.R., My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey," written with USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen, Roenick speaks of the 1989 playoff game in St. Louis when he was cross-checked in the mouth by Glen Featherstone and lost several teeth.

Roenick went to the bench and was telling his teammates about the "chiclets" he still had in his mouth when coach Mike Keenan screamed at him to go tell referee Kerry Fraser. Roenick did, sticking out his tongue for Fraser to examine. Featherstone got a major penalty and the Hawks, trailing 1-0 at the time, scored 2 power-play goals in eight seconds (1 of them by Roenick himself) to take the lead for good.

Roenick credits that incident with winning over those teammates who didn't take him seriously.

"I had proven to them what I was all about," Roenick wrote.

After that game, Graham paid his young teammate perhaps the ultimate compliment: "That," Graham said, "is being a Blackhawk."

The second biggest mistake late Hawks owner Bill Wirtz ever made was trading Roenick to Phoenix in the 1996 off-season for Alex Zhamnov and Craig Mills after Wirtz and general manager Bob Pulford got mad at Roenick's agent for asking for what they felt was too much money: $4 million a year.

The worst mistake Wirtz made was letting Hull go to Winnipeg over another money issue.

"You will never get $4 million to play in this league," Roenick remembered Pulford saying.

Not long after the trade, Roenick got $20 million over five years from the Coyotes.

The book is filled with juicy Keenan stories with Roenick crediting the former Hawks coach with molding him into the player he became.

"He was Dr. Frankenstein and I was his creation," Roenick wrote.

"Playing for Mike Keenan in Chicago was like camping on the side of an active volcano. He was a tyrant, a schoolyard bully, an old-school coach who tried to motivate players through intimidation, belittlement and fear. The truth is that Keenan scared me into being a better NHL player."

The Keenan stories will be the highlight of the book for Hawks fans.

"I think they're going to really enjoy the relationship I had with Keenan, and what it was like in the locker room with Keenan," Roenick said before spending nearly four hours signing copies of his book on Wednesday at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. "He scared the (bleep) out of me because I wasn't a physical player when I left high school. I was finesse, passive player. I wasn't a hitter."

Roenick also touches on the Oct. 9, 1999 incident at the United Center when he high-sticked pal Tony Amonte in the face while playing for Phoenix.

Roenick contends he was enraged on the ice after his wife, Tracey, came down to the dressing room following the second period to confront him in front of his teammates about what she felt was his out-of-control lifestyle off the ice.

"By the time I arrived on the bench, I was an angry bull and someone was going to pay a price for my anger," Roenick wrote. "Although no one believes me, I would swear on the Bible that I just slashed the first person who came near me, and it was Tony Amonte.

"I will go to the grave swearing that I didn't know it was Tony ..."

Roenick and Amonte didn't speak to each other for a year and a half after that.

Roenick still is outspoken today, especially when it comes to the nearly three-month-old lockout, which he blames on both sides.

"The players did give a lot by offering the 50-50 split; that's a lot by the players," Roenick said. "The owners gave back and said we'll make the contracts full and honored. Now the players don't like the length of the contract, a 10-year CBA and an eight-year player contract."

Roenick thinks the union should accept what the owners are offering.

"I think there's a deal on the table that needs to be signed," he said.

Roenick still remembers the season that was canceled in 2004-05 as a low point in the game's history.

"This is the second time in eight years and I don't know how much more fans can take," Roenick said. "Social media lets you know today how upset people are and it's rampant."

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