A FEW MINUTES WITH ROENICK
As is his style, Roenick was glib, spoke his mind and was entertaining. Next to Chris Pronger getting frisky at yesterday's press conference, It might be the best 10 minutes of dialogue in the Finals. Here it is in its entirety.
Who are you rooting for?
“I’m totally neutral. I don’t care who wins. I’m rooting more for the sport of hockey. But if you put a gun to my head, if you really put a gun to my head, I might be a little more with Philly.”
You’re trying to be politically correct aren’t you?
“I love both cities. The fans in both cities treat me like their own son so I can’t root against or for either one of them. I work for NBC so I have to be neutral. I win either way. I think it’s great for hockey. You have an Original Six team in Chicago, which is one of the most beloved teams in hockey, and Philly, which you can’t (match) how passionate they are about sports. It’s great for hockey, it’s great for its ratings and it’s great for both cities.”
Which city is better?
“If you’re talking fans, they’re a little more lenient here (in Chicago). In Philly they’ll run you out of town. If you go nightlife, Chicago is better. If you go food, Philly is better. Philly is one of the better food cities I’ve ever been in. Chicago has a little bit nicer people. Women? Chicago has prettier women.”
So it’s a push?
“ No, the reason I like Philly is because it’s blue collar, real people who are tough and stern that want hard workers and if they don’t get it, they’re going to let you know about it. I liked playing hockey that way. When I stepped on the ice and hit somebody and worked hard, they appreciated it and that’s why we got along so well. I’m not saying the people are bad, but they’re hard on you. They’re rougher. Here (in Chicago), they’re like, ‘Hey, how are you? Nice to see you. Can I do anything for you?’ The Midwestern mentality is a different kind of mentality. They’re two totally different cities in that aspect, but they have sports fans like no other. That’s why I like both cities.”
Did you ever envision this final?
“No. I couldn’t… I could never imagined Philly and Chicago being in the Finals like this. I gave a lot of blood and energy to try and help both teams win the Cup and I didn’t win it, but now one of them is going to do it. It gives me that feeling in the pit of my stomach – I missed out, but I’m glad both cities are getting the opportunity to do it. They both deserve it. Mr. Snider deserves it. (Blackhawks owner) Rocky (Wirtz) deserves it. Where do you go? I’m stuck.”
Do you know either coach well?
“Peter (Laviolette) was my Olympic roommate back in 1987 at the trials. I have a history with him, not so much as a coach, but back when he played.”
What was he like as a player?
“He was mean. He was mean. He was kind of like a (Chris) Prongerish type of player. He was very emotional. He was a good player, very sturdy, very steady. He was strong and mean. He was not a fun guy to play against and he coaches the same way. He was a great choice by (Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren) to bring in because he has that Philly mentality. He’ll kick you in the ass but he’ll also pat you on the back, which I think players’ need. He’s also a vocal guy and I think you need a vocal guy in the locker room. Joel Quenneville has done it everywhere he’s gone whether it’s Colorado, St. Louis or here. He’s just smart. He’s very smart. He knows how to treat his players. He knows who needs to be coddled and who needs to be worked. That’s a good transition that he knows how to make. Both coaches are identical on their bench coaching, who to play and who not to play, and how to motivate and motivating is very important and they both do it very well.”
Is there still a J.R. in this league?
Will there ever be?
“Not verbally. Maybe playing-wise, sure. Not when there’s a microphone in front of their mouth though. People now are boring as crap and I don’t want to listen to them. I still here the same old clichés. These guys know now that if you say something, it’s going to be in the paper and the coaches are going to highlight it and put it on the board. So, you go in there and ask these guys, ‘how you think it’s going to go tonight,’ and they say, ‘I don’t know.” Great. Thanks for talking. None of this, ‘We’re going to kick their ass tonight,’ or, ‘That guy (stinks),’ the old-fashioned stuff.”
What do you think about Chicago’s salary cap situation?
“I think they’re in trouble. You can’t have this much talent with a cap… There’s no way they can keep all this talent unless they do some serious negotiating to get guys to take less money. Maybe they should have (the players) meet some wise guys in the back alley to convince them to do something else.”
What do you think the difference is in the series?
“I think the third and fourth lines are going to make and break it. When you get guys like (Troy) Brouwer and (Dave) Bolland scoring big goals like they did in Game 1 and (Scott) Hartnell having a great Game 1… and I’m not saying Danny Briere is a secondary scorer, because he’s one of the top scorers, but when you look at scoring in Philly it’s (Mike) Richards and (Jeff) Carter, then Danny and Simon (Gagne). I think it’s the secondary scorers who re going to push it over the top. That’s pretty much how it is in all series in the playoffs, especially the finals. Goaltending was not a factor in Game 1. Both goaltenders were terrible. But, the forwards were bad in front of them. If you don’t support your goalie, you can’t expect him to win the game for you every time. The third and fourth lines on both these teams are going to be the deciding factors.”
When you played with Patrick Sharp, did you see this ability in him?
“Not to develop the way he has and to be the goal scorer he is. I knew he was a good shooter, but he’s using my stick. That’s why he’s such a good scorer. I didn’t leave too many goals in them, but he uses the identical stick that I had.”
He credits Ken Hitchcock with turning him into the player he is. Do you agree?
“Sure. Even though I didn’t appreciate him when I played for him, when you leave you see what a brain he is and how smart he is. He’s an educator of the game and a tremendous man. He wouldn’t do that emotionally, but from a numbers game, the tic-tac-toes of the sport, he’s the biggest reason for Patrick learning the game the right way.”
Surprised by the business turnaround of the Blackhawks?
“Yes and no. You have to credit Rocky with going against his family’s wishes and saying, ‘Look, these are the things we have to do if we want to compete and win a championship. If we want people to come back and support our team, this is what we have to do.’ He hired a guy in John McDonough that knows public relations and how to sell a team. Then he sold money to get top players, did his homework to get a good coach and put games back on T.V. It was a monumental shift in the last four years here in Chicago and look what’s happened, it’s paid off.”