Roenick’s the King of L.A.

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 To start his first official day on the job as the Kings’ pied piper, the day players reported to El Segundo for physicals, Jeremy Roenick talked himself and his Porsche into an executive parking lot. Roenick doesn’t know whose spot his car occupied. One team employee said it belonged to Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Told this, Roenick debated that part of the story for a moment, but ultimately shrugged. “That’s OK. I had a heavy bag and I didn’t want to carry it all the way in from the main parking lot,” Roenick said. “I figured, I’m a new guy, just let me use the spot for the day. It was a welcoming gift. “I met Phil (two weeks later) and he didn’t say anything, so I guess I’m OK.” Welcome to JR’s world. It’s a world easily misunderstood, one where the words subtle, discreet and restrained have no significance. So for the Kings, Roenick isn’t just a first-line center. He’s a personality on a team desperately in need of one, the face of a franchise too often anonymous in its own city. Roenick isn’t all talk, but he’s big on it. The Kings acquired him in August from Philadelphia, hoping that at age 35 and with a history of concussions, he still has something left. But arguably, Roenick’s bigger role will be off the ice, in helping the Kings regain a presence after the nightmare of last year’s lockout. Whether he is talking about fellow players, coaches, the collective-bargaining agreement, fans or the baseball playoffs, Roenick has opinions on every subject, and isn’t afraid to share. “With JR and the profile he has, it’s already been very helpful to us,” general manager Dave Taylor said. “There’s a lot of competition for the sports dollar in L.A. and he’s helped raise awareness for our team.” Even in the heyday of Wayne Gretzky, the Kings never saw anything like this. Gretzky, while immensely talented, often had the humility of a fourth-line checker. Then there’s Roenick. In his brief Kings career, he already has done television segments with Carson Daly and former Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy, hung out with the crew on Fox’s Best Damn Sports Show Period and done a segment locally with KTLA Channel 5. That’s more publicity than most Kings get in their careers, and Roenick hasn’t played a game here. “I love the guy; I think he should have been in L.A. 10 years ago,” Luc Robitaille said. “He’s entertainment. If you think of the Lakers when they had Magic (Johnson), it was pure entertainment. That’s what JR brings to our team. On top of being a hard player, he does entertaining things.” Like say, perhaps, disco-dancing on the ice? During the Kings’ preseason game in Las Vegas, one of the plexiglass panes became dislodged. Ever impatient, Roenick skated over to offer advice to the rink crew, and during the break, music was played to keep the fans entertained. Roenick began to groove a bit, and an astute rink employee shined a spotlight on him, which was a huge invitation. Roenick began a full-out disco routine, pumping his arms as he skated back to the bench and the crowd roared its approval and smiling players looked on. “Too many people in this game, they’re strictly about, ‘Play hockey, play hockey, play hockey, don’t smile, pay attention to hockey, concentrate, play hockey, play hockey, play hockey,’ ” Roenick said. “This is entertainment. Yes, it’s a business, but we’re also in the business of entertaining. “The lockout hurt us, and we need to find ways to entertain the fans. It doesn’t have to be your actions on the ice. It can be the things you say, whether it’s talking with the fans or just acting stupid sometimes. That can’t be taken as a lack of concentration or a lack of competitiveness.” And therein lies the rub with Roenick. The Kings lost the Disco Night game, and although it was just a preseason game, Roenick knows that some around the league would be critical of him goofing around in a game his team lost, a game in which coach Andy Murray wasn’t happy with the team’s effort. Roenick has dealt with this before, the perception that he puts himself before the team, that personal attention and accomplishments are more important to him than team goals. Roenick strongly disagrees. “Certain things might not seem beneficial, like dancing at center ice,” Roenick said. “When you lose a game 2-1, there are individuals around the league who would point to that. ‘Aw, he wasn’t ready to play. He’s too busy trying to entertain and fool around and bring attention to himself instead of the team.’ “ “That’s just a cop-out. That shouldn’t be a problem. Not everybody can separate those two sides, but I’m a guy who has shown he can separate it, which is important.” Roenick has had his share of management run-ins in previous stops; most recently, in Philadelphia, he was suspended for throwing a water bottle at a referee and once referred to coach Ken Hitchcock as a “control freak” because Roenick was unhappy about Hitchcock changing line combinations. But Roenick also is the guy who returned, after 19 games, from a broken jaw and a concussion after being struck in the face by a puck. He is the guy who has never missed the playoffs, in 16 seasons. “He’s a really good friend and teammate, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” Hitchcock said. “The people around him understand that. He just enjoys every aspect of sports and entertainment and certain people see that as attention-grabbing, but Jeremy is a very competitive person. “We had a very good working relationship. He never detracted from the team and never cheated the team. The rest of the stuff made it interesting and kept you on your toes.” That’s something coming from Hitchcock, as old school as they come. But then again, so is Kings coach Andy Murray, who already is on the record as saying that he doesn’t mind “if players talk, as long as they back it up.” That theory surely will be put to the test by Roenick. Roenick drew the most attention of any player during the lockout when he said a segment of fans could kiss his backside. Roenick later clarified those comments, but they were a good example of what can happen anytime he’s face-to-face with a microphone. And it’s not an act. What you see is Roenick, as he is, for better or worse. “I’m the same way at home,” Roenick said. “My kids look at me sometimes and they bow their heads, like, ‘Oh my God, Dad.’ I’ll dance in the car, sing in the car. I’ll be around my kids’ friends and do something wild and crazy and my (11-year-old) daughter goes, ‘Dad, stop it, you’re embarrassing me.’ I say, ‘What do you have to be embarrassed about?’ “ Rich Hammond, (818) 713-3611 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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