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Roenick: An exciting weekend for hockey in America

by Jeremy Roenick /
NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Hockey Weekend Across America and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Jeff Carter are on my mind this week:

What's clicking?

Hockey Weekend Across America is coming up this weekend, and to be honest, I don't know why they didn't start this years ago. This is a great way to introduce hockey awareness to sports fans in the Unites States.

USA Hockey really has moved leaps and bounds ahead of where they were in the 1980s and '90s in their push to make hockey a much more popular sport. To get the awareness of hockey out there has been at the forefront of their mission, which I think is so important. Now NBC has pushed to get kids interested not only in the game, but the rivalries in the game, the logistics in the game, the competition.

With hockey being probably the least popular of the four major sports in the United States, it's very important that it's easy to find on television and people can understand what the game is about, the rules of the game. And USA Hockey has done a fantastic job of putting different programs together to show the sport to so many kids.

NBC has done a great job of allowing people to see the personality of the players and the competitiveness of the players. It's wonderful that on Sunday, which is Hockey Day in America, NBC is going to air three regional games plus two national games throughout the day.

They're going to show what a great Minnesota high school hockey rivalry is all about. They're going to give you the history of the National Team Development Program, which has been such a huge success for USA Hockey. They're going to show physically disabled people enjoying sled hockey in Tampa.

Back when I was younger it was the Olympics in 1980 that started the initial trend of excitement about hockey. It sparked kids to want to play, to be an Olympian. Then our generation put USA Hockey on the map.

Whether it was Mike Modano, Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk or myself -- we put hockey on the map in the United States, and I'm very proud to be a part of that generation.

USA Hockey now has taken a hands-on approach to giving hockey the platform it needs to gain popularity. They've created leagues and skill-set programs and a partnership with NBC and the NHL that has allowed kids to learn about the players and what it's like to play hockey. Some of these programs have allowed kids the opportunity to afford to play hockey.

To make one day, one weekend around hockey, and make it easy to watch for the common, every-day sports fan, is so good for the game. We have a beautiful sport, and the more they can talk about it, show it, show the personalities of the players in the National Hockey League, the more inclined people are going to be to enjoy the sport, watch the sport, and maybe go out and get a pair of skates so they can play the sport.

The Canadians have always had a very strong youth program through Hockey Canada, and now hopefully everybody enjoys what NBC is going to do with USA Hockey and the NHL. Hopefully it'll help create the next generation of American superstars.

What's missing?

Along with Rick Nash, we're hearing Jeff Carter's name in the trade rumors.

When Carter came to Columbus over the summer, the people there had good feelings and were positive about the upcoming season, but Carter has not helped the Blue Jackets in any way, shape or form.

I think Carter is a dynamic hockey player, a great goal scorer, but he has not clicked.

It could be injuries. It could be a lack of cohesion. Or maybe it's just that he can't find his niche.

The point here is that Carter was very good in Philadelphia; he scored a lot of goals, worked hard, was in your face. But it seems like the trade to Columbus deflated him. Now when I watch him play I just don't see the same Jeff Carter that I saw in Philly.

He's not working as hard. He's not playing as aggressively. He just doesn't seem to have the attitude that he had with the Flyers.

You can't change the way you play because of the city that you play in. Granted, Columbus doesn't have the best team, but you have to do your best to try to make that team better.

With the trade deadline coming, if Carter wants to make a splash, make people aware again of what he can do, he only has a short time to pick his game up and show why he would be a very important piece to a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. He makes a lot of money, he has a big contract, and that's only more of a reason he should be putting out more of an effort.

Only Jeff Carter can be that guy to show everybody the type of player he is. He's a good player caught in a tough situation in Columbus, but with a hefty contract like he has you have to be way more interested in the game and give way more of an effort.

Make an effort to make a difference. Don't just wallow in everybody else's mediocrity.
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