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Roenick hangs up his skates
Sharks need new motivator
8/5/09 - By Mike Lee -

Desperately in need of the motivation required to get them over the Stanley Cup hump, the San Jose Sharks took a hit to that cause and said goodbye to one of their team leaders on Thursday, as Jeremy Roenick hung up his skates in an afternoon press conference at HP Pavilion. The veteran centerman wrapped up a 20-year NHL career behind the microphone and a conference table in the bowels of the Sharks Tank, finally succumbing to the physical burden that professional hockey player endures. Roenick said he knew it was time to move on.

The void created by one of the most outspoken players in the league leaves the Sharks minus a huge personality, but more importantly a locker room motivator. After being pulled off the NHL scrap heap in the summer of 2007, Roenick’s career was revitalized with a real opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

For San Jose , it meant taking a chance on bone-fide mouth that would either work for or against the Sharks master plan. Roenick was labeled a distraction later in his career, floundering in Phoenix and Los Angeles , so it was a big gamble on Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson’s part to sign Roenick.

He admitted in Thursday’s press conference, that he was 20 pounds overweight when Wilson came to visit and see if we had any gas left in the tank before signing him. Wilson interrupted him by saying it was “25 pounds”, drawing lots of chuckles from the press conference attendees.

What transpired over the next two seasons exceeded many of the expectations that people had before he came to San Jose . Roenick didn’t turn into the locker room distraction that many thought he would become. He didn’t appease journalists with outlandish quotes that were great for selling newspapers, but lousy for team chemistry.

He did exactly what Wilson asked him to do. He became a mentor to a relatively young team. Roenick is a Hall of Fame lock, having scored his 513 goals and 703 assists in 1,363 regular season games.

The only problem with the deal Roenick signed 2-years ago, was that is didn’t include a cloning clause which would provide the added motivation that the Sharks needed to advance in the playoffs. Perhaps the effects of his presence in the Sharks locker room may still be manifesting itself. Perhaps the Devin Setoguchi’s and Joe Pavelski’s learned to become true professionals under Roenick’s tutelage and the Sharks have yet to reap those rewards.

Reaping the rewards of having the wise old veteran teach his youngsters for the last two years, Wilson decided to repay his old teammate one last time by allowing Roenick to go out on his own terms. Roenick mentioned that he didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to the fans, to his contemporaries, or to the game after Los Angeles chose not to resign him in 2007. Wilson gave him that chance with a fine send off.

Several of those contemporaries called into the press conference to pass on well wishes, including Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Chelios. All helped conjure tears in Roenick’s eyes as they reminisced and lauded him for his great career.

Chelios mentioned that he was preparing for the upcoming season, even though he’s not currently signed by any team. If Wilson wants to fill the leadership role that Roenick just vacated, Chelios is waiting in the wings. Chelios is another former Blackhawk teammate of Wilson’s, and given all the dividends his last role of the dice paid in signing a washed up former Blackhawk, Chelios could ft the bill.

As for hockey, the real fun is just around the corner. Never one to mince his words, Roenick will almost surely land behind a television camera or radio microphone, continuing in his role as NHL ambassador. Now the gloves can really come off, in terms of what Roenick can and can’t say.

It’s sure to be entertaining.



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