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Roenick resurfaces in San Jose

by Evan Grossman
Jeremy Roenick is headed to San Jose "to just be one of the guys."
Jeremy Roenick just wants to blend in, and, in his words, be “camouflaged” in his new surroundings.

Largely considered among the most outspoken and largest personalities in hockey history, the 37-year-old center took a call from San Jose GM Doug Wilson this summer and decided that maybe it wasn’t yet the time to retire. Roenick had said earlier in the summer that he was calling it quits, but this week signed a one-year deal with the Sharks in his pursuit of winning an elusive Cup.

Roenick, who never had an ounce of chameleon in his body, says he has a second lease on his hockey life, that he feels a passion for the game he thought had dried up, and that he’s going to San Jose to just be one of the guys. As hard as it may be for the opinionated Roenick to not stand out from the crowd, he says that he wants to be just one of the guys in the room.

“Speaking words doesn’t matter too much,” he said on a conference call on which Roenick was soft-spoken and shied away from controversy when he declined to speak about the last two years of his career.

Roenick played the last two seasons with the Kings and the Coyotes, teams that didn’t make the playoffs in his time there. The losing caught up with Roenick, evidenced by his hasty announcement earlier in the summer that he was going to retire. But hearing Wilson’s voice on the other end of the phone in August rekindled the passion Roenick believed was long gone.

“That was a very, very true feeling in my body and soul about retiring,” Roenick said. “I kind of lost a little luster for the game the last couple of years. And then I got a phone call from Doug Wilson. Immediately, from a phone call from a team like San Jose and a guy that I respect -- probably one of the most respected guys I ever played with -- in Doug Wilson, my electricity and my energy immediately came back. When you love to play the game and you’ve loved to

Evan Grossman

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play the game for so long, when a team comes along of this nature, this kind of opportunity, it’s very, very easy to get excited and motivated. That’s pretty much how it went.

“I kind of feel like I’ve gotten a second chance at life on a team where I can fit in and go along with the flow and try to help as much as I can.”

Now that he’s excited about hockey again, Roenick is pumped up about being just one of the guys, and he’s excited for newest chapter of his career.

“I’ve known Jeremy since 1988, he was a rookie when I was with the Blackhawks,” said Wilson, who was a 31-year-old veteran when a then-19-year-old Roenick broke in with Chicago. “We think we’re a pretty good environment for Jeremy to come in and compete for some ice time on this team. Having known him and everybody having the background with him, it’s certainly worth the opportunity we provide for him.”

Roenick has 495 goals and 1,170 points in 1,252 games played with Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He played last year in a second tour with the Coyotes, with whom he scored 28 points in 70 games.

One of the great American-born players of his generation, Roenick was known more for the distractions he brought to his last few teams than the actual skills he brought to the ice. Wilson, who runs one of the tighter ships in the NHL fleet, said Roenick’s baggage isn’t an issue for the Cup-thirsty Sharks.

“We know very well, and this is not a negative to where he’s been in prior situations, but I think a player like this has to be in a situation where he perceives his ability to win and the ultimate winning being for a Cup,” Wilson said. “When you go back to how he played in Philadelphia, I think that was an environment that was really a good environment for him. He’s coming here to play hockey and the other stuff is not what it’s all about. We’re a hockey team trying to have success, and he’s coming in purely as a hockey player.”

Roenick has 495 goals and 1,170 points in 1,252 games played with Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Roenick also alluded to the three seasons he spent with the Flyers and the energy he gleaned from the passionate Broad Street fans. This, of course, is the same player who broke down in tears after his first home game with the Flyers because he was so enamored by the home crowd.

Above all else though, Roenick says it was San Jose’s standing as a Cup favorite that lured him back to the rink.

“I think it’s all the difference in the world,” he said. “Being around as long as I have and seeing a lot of different atmospheres and feeling a lot of different emotions in my career, I can honestly say this is the most excited I’ve been going into a season because I’m going to a team that’s a first-class organization, it is a powerhouse of a hockey team, the city is electric with fans. If anyone has ever been to a game in San Jose, their fans are probably the most loyal and aggressive group, sold out every night. It’s kind of like the feeling I had going into Philly and that atmosphere.”

Roenick is five goals shy of reaching 500 for his career, a milestone that is important to him, though not the reason he decided to come back.

“It’s going to be a great bonus and I will get to that,” he said. “When? It doesn’t really matter to me. It’s not my motivation at all. In the middle of the summer I was pretty much content on hanging them up and that had no bearing whether I was going to get 500 or not. I was ready to do that. Getting this opportunity was strictly an opportunity to play for a first-class organization with a fantastic chance to win the Cup.”

Older, wiser, and maybe even a little quieter than we’re used to Roenick being, he’s back for at least one more season. Not quite one of the out-of-focus guys in the back of the team photo, he says he’s going to be a role player and Roenick has pledged his allegiance to the San Jose Sharks, really the only team that called him this summer.

“You bring in guys and sometimes they’re at the end of their run and they don’t want to look back and have any ‘what ifs,’” Wilson said. “Nobody can ever question Jeremy Roenick’s willingness to compete. We think he brings that to our team.”

He also brings a touch of a silent side many are not used to Roenick having.

“It’s going to be a quiet year in terms of the verbal side of me,” Roenick said. “I’m going to go in there and really just enjoy being on a team that’s run by probably two of the great players in the League in Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. I’m going to really love watching them play every single night. It’s an exciting time for me and my family, that’s for sure.”

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