This is life after hockey for Jeremy Roenick.
A swanky downtown night spot. Mugging for the cameras. Offering an opinion on something, anything, in the game as often as possible.
And loving every minute of it.
Roenick spent most of his Thursday in Toronto plunked on a sofa alongside Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos, as the pair squared off for a bout of NHL 12 to promote the video game’s release next month.
During a rare quiet moment in the day, he intimated that he’s adjusted to life off the ice just fine in the two years since retiring, recently signing a five-year deal with NBC to be one of the faces of the NHL’s new broadcast deal in the United States.
He’ll also likely be on television often in this country as part of CBC’s Battle of the Blades, reprising his role as a judge on the popular hockey-player-turned-figure-skater show.
So while some of Roenick’s running mates during his playing career such as Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk have gigs with the league or as general managers, JR’s far more comfortable being this generation’s loudmouth TV personality.
“It’s crazy busy,” Roenick said. “I’m on the road probably five nights out of seven during the week.
“I enjoy it. I get recognized a lot more now than I did as a player because I’m in front of the audience every night, I don’t have equipment on, people see what I look like. My speaking engagements have gone up. When you have an opinion and you’re able to get it out like I do on a nightly basis, more people are going to tune in and you’re going to get attention. I like that aspect of it.”
Already tabbed as potentially becoming the American answer to Don Cherry, Roenick’s profile should soar to new heights given NBC’s 10-year deal with the league includes new pre- and postgame shows, 100 regular-season games and far more playoff coverage.
He simply grins when he hears the Cherry comparison being made.
“The fact that people say that about me is flattering,” he said. “I’m a huge, huge Don Cherry fan so please don’t let me sit here and say I can replace him. You can never replace Don Cherry. But you do need somebody who can capture that colour as much as possible.”
That colour also is part of the reason Roenick was slipped in as one of nine “legends” added to EA Sports’ annual hockey offering, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Chris Chelios, Ray Bourque, Borje Salming, Patrick Roy and Yzerman as the first retired players incorporated into the game.
“I actually look at the guys that are in there and I’m like why am I in this?” Roenick said. “But you look at stats, you look at career and yeah there are some people who should be in this game more than me, but they’ll be the ones that come in after.
“To be one of the first legends, I’m honoured. Plus my kids are really proud.”
The video game might be as close as you see him to a rink without a microphone in hand, however, as while Roenick had plenty of opinions on the NHL’s research and development camp this week – “whatever they can do to increase scoring… for me, that’s what I want to see” – he isn’t about to follow his contemporaries into management any time soon.
“I enjoy having an opinion and being able to say it,” he said. “If I worked for a team, I would be handcuffed on my views.”
And it’s hard to imagine JR living like that.