Coyotes' honor is humbling for Roenick

Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:45 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Jeremy Roenick says he rarely gets humbled by anything, but the honor that will be bestowed on him on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz., is one of those rare moments that can bring even the most confident star to tears.

Roenick will watch his No. 97 go up to the rafters of Jobing.com Arena as he becomes the seventh player to be inducted into the Coyotes Ring of Honor. He will join Wayne Gretzky (99), Bobby Hull (9), Thomas Steen (25), Dale Hawerchuk (10), Teppo Numminen (27) and Keith Tkachuk in the exclusive fraternity.

"When an honor like this is bestowed on you, when they're actually putting your jersey up in the rafters, that is special," Roenick told NHL.com Friday from the Bellagio, where he is taking part in Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp. "I don't think it has hit me yet that they're doing this for me. The ultimate goal is the Hall of Fame, and I think the second best honor you can be given is for what you have done for a team. It's great that the Coyotes are doing this for me."

Roenick arrived in Phoenix in 1996 and played 454 games over six seasons in a Coyotes uniform. He registered 379 points on 152 goals and 227 assists while also compiling 596 penalty minutes.

He led the Coyotes in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes in back-to-back seasons and was the team's scoring champion in three straight seasons (1998-2001). He scored 24 or more goals in five of his six seasons in Phoenix and was an All-Star in 1999 and 2000.

"I had some good years there and I played with great players," said Roenick, who is now an analyst for the NHL Network and NBC Sports Network as well as a blogger for NHL.com. "Playing with Keith Tkachuk was one of the highlights of my career. We meshed very well. Phoenix was a good place for me."

So good, in fact, that Roenick, his wife Tracy and their children settled there and still call Phoenix home.

"It's the community, the people. They're very respectful. They accepted me and my family with open arms," Roenick said of why he stuck in Phoenix. "It's a nice place to raise a family. The weather is good. The people are nice. The amenities are nice. The location is great. Tracy and I do a lot for the community and we have made so many friends because of that. When you make the close friends that we have made, it becomes hard to leave. You get cemented, and I am cemented."

Roenick was cemented in Chicago as well. He became a superstar for the Blackhawks and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992, but he was traded to Phoenix in 1996 for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills.

"It was a very tough transition for me because I thought I'd be a Hawk for life," Roenick said. "It was tough for me to go to Phoenix, where the NHL was new and you have to try to teach all these people after playing in front of fans in Chicago that were so rabidly passionate for the Hawks."

It worked out in Phoenix for his first five seasons, and then after stops in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Roenick returned to the desert for the 2006-07 season. He scored 28 points in 70 games.

Roenick was honored by the Blackhawks in 2009 as part of their Heritage Night series. His number, though, did not go up to the rafters at United Center.

The Coyotes are playing Chicago on Saturday.

"I think this one is a little bit deeper, a little bigger," Roenick said about Saturday's ceremony. "To have your number go in the rafters, this is probably the biggest honor I've had so far."

Roenick still isn't sure what he'll say to the fans.

"I have four minutes and I will not write anything because I think some of the best speeches come from the heart," he said. "I will go out there and say what comes to my mind first. Obviously the appreciation is going to be well known. I'm going to thank the fans. The fans are really what made my career blossom. Yeah, I was good on the ice, but it wouldn't have mattered how good I was on the ice if there wasn't anybody watching it. They always supported me. I'm really lucky and honored to have been able to play in the city that I still live in."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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