The guy just loves the spotlight. He craves it. It’s what made him one of the best hockey players of a generation. It’s what’s made him a must-see broadcaster during games for NBC telecasts.
And now, it’s what makes him a best-selling author.
Roenick, who spent a very memorable portion of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers (2001-2005) has co-authored a book with USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen titled “J.R. – My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey.”
Though the title is long, it is accurate, because the book does cover his life – from his earliest days playing pee-wee hockey in Washington D.C., to his time at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts, to his brief stint in Junior hockey all the way through is illustrious NHL career and even beyond into his world of acting, golfing and broadcasting.
“The one thing I said to Kevin when we started the process is that I wanted this book to be so entertaining that it sounds like me, sitting in a bar with a bunch of friends telling stories.”
And that’s exactly how the book reads.
It’s very stream of conscious. It’s one epic, anecdotal story after another. Just when you read it and think that a story is a bit too much to be believed, Roenick rebounds with another one that is even more incredible and leaves you in stitches.
There are people in this world who have that innate ability to be in the memorable place at just the right time more than once. Roenick has enough stories to tell for a dozen of those people – and he has a bunch of them in this book.
Whether he’s describing the hatred the Chicago Blackhawks players had for their coach (and former Flyers coach) Mike Keenan, or he’s talking about a bender in Western Canada that went wrong in the wee hours of the morning, or his attempt at skinny-dipping at a South Jersey golf course to rescue a club he threw in the water out of frustration (yes, there is photo, provided by another former Flyer – Rick Tocchet), Roenick has a knack for weaving the story in a way that brings about a great payoff at the end of each tale.
“Initially I was skeptical about writing a book because I never want to disappoint anyone by not being entertaining, either on ice or off ice,” Roenick said. “I want everyone I encounter in any way to come away with a great experience.
“People are drawn to sports in general because they always wanted to be a sports star and a celebrity and they want to know what it’s like. So I wanted to make sure that if I was writing a book, I was giving them a real taste of what a locker room is like and what life on the road is like. I tried to bring them experiences that most people would never get a chance to be a part of first hand.”
Like being in a tense poker hand on a team charter flight against one of your teammates with $110,000 on the line.
The team? The teammate? The result? Better we let you read it for yourself.
The book is available in a lot of places – book stores, both physical and online – but maybe the best place to purchase the book – especially in time for the holidays – is through Roenick’s Website, because there, you can get your copy of the book personalized by J.R. himself.
And it’s worth the purchase just for the stories about his time in Philadelphia alone.
He talks about his run-ins with then-Flyers coach Ken Hitchock. He describes the struggles of returning from the broken jaw he suffered in 2004 when getting hit by a shot by Boris Mironov. He talks at length about the great run to Game 7 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final and the emotion that went into that trip.
But probably the most memorable part of what he said about his time with the Flyers is his outright criticism of goalie Roman Cechmanek. Roenick believes that the Flyers were talented enough to win a Stanley Cup had Cechmanek cared about playing in the postseason.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“He would look good in the regular season, and then the playoffs would start and suddenly he was giving up bad goals. In 2000-01, he had a 2.01 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in the regular season. Then, his playoff numbers were 3.11 and .896. The way he performed in the playoffs made me believe he had come to the NHL just for the money and not to play with the world’s best players and win the Stanley Cup. To me he seemed like a phony, a true fraud. I had no use for him.”
Later he added:
“In my career, I only ran into a few teammates whom I considered lost causes. I couldn’t stand playing with goalie Roman Cechmanek in Philadelphia because I felt like he had one foot back in the Czech Republic the minute the regular season was over. He didn’t seem to be as serious about the NHL playoffs as the rest of us were. It made me wonder whether he would have preferred playing for his country in the World Championships rather than the Stanley Cup playoffs. Players only get paid in the regular season, not the playoffs. It didn’t seem like a coincidence to me that when the paychecks stopped coming, Cechmanek’s performance level went downhill. I remember telling teammates after the 2001-02 season that if he was in Philadelphia’s net the following fall, I wasn’t [bleeping] coming back.”
It’s that kind of no frills, unfiltered attitude and approach that Roenick always had as a player, and it is prevalent throughout his book.
“I knew I left a lasting impression on the ice,” Roenick said. “I don’t care about making more friends or about pleasing everyone in hockey… I don’t have the time to worry about the masses if they like me or not… I’m here to inform, give opinions and not to make friends. If you don’t like it, that’s too bad. But along the way, you’re going to say things people are going to love too.”
And Flyers fans are going to love this book too. From it’s opening paragraph where Roenick said he was watching an interview with Sidney Crosby and wanted to jump through the television and grab Crosby by the throat.
Although he says it a bit more colorfully.
He talks about kissing Mark Recchi – and Ed Snider – and goes into detail about his pre-game ritual in Philadelphia that encompassed turning out the lights in the locker room, hanging a disco ball, and then dancing with Todd Fedoruk.
Oh, and Roenick bitterly lashes out against some Pittsburgh fans as well for the things they say to him on Twitter.
Yeah, Flyers fans will like that too.
All told, it’s an entertaining read, with so many memorable stories and a voice that is 100 percent J.R.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37