In this honest, no-nonsense book by one of the greatest American stars the NHL has ever known, Jeremy Roenick showcases his skill as a hockey storyteller In his one-of-a-kind way, Roenick shares stories from his 20-year career with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks, providing an inside perspective on the oddities of life as a pro athlete. He explains why he openly considered the pros and cons of fighting a fan, opens up about tales of partying on road trips, and even how he became friends with former Vice President Dan Quayle. In one chapter, Roenick lends the pen to his wife, Tracy, to tell her side of the story. Nothing is held back as J. R. reveals his opinions about teammates, opponents, and the future of the game.
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About the Author
Jeremy Roenick is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and one of only four American-born players to score 500 or more career NHL goals. He is currently a hockey analyst for NBC. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Kevin Allen is the author or coauthor of more than a dozen sports books, including Brett: His Own Story, Star-Spangled Hockey: Celebrating 75 Years of USA Hockey, and Without Fear: Hockey’s 50 Greatest Goaltenders. He lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Chris Chelios was a defenseman who played in the NHL for 26 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and Atlanta Thrashers. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013 and won three Stanley Cups. He is currently the executive advisor to general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Read an Excerpt
Shoot First Pass Later
My Life, No Filter
By Jeremy Roenick, Kevin Allen
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2015 Jeremy Roenick
All rights reserved.
The Father's Daughter
My daughter, Brandi, a nationally ranked dressage rider, quit her sport and moved out of our house when she was a teenager. She told us she didn't want to go to college. She didn't want horses dictating the course of her life. Mostly, she didn't want her parents telling her what was in her best interests.
As defiant words poured from her mouth, it reminded me of the rebellious attitude I embraced after I started playing for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988.
Like the lyrics from the Billy Joel song, Brandi had grown up just like me. She inherited her dad's stubbornness and his disdain for being told what to do. She knows it, too. Brandi has said numerous times that she is like me in many ways, and she seems to realize that is not always a good thing.
While I understood my daughter's attitude, I wasn't any less angry about her decision. Her retirement from dressage came a few months after I paid a handsome sum for a seven-year-old coal-black mare named Apassionata. This horse had been competing successfully in Germany. My daughter was a potential 2015 Pan- American Games competitor, and putting her with this world-class horse seemed like the right move.
Brandi had been very excited about the purchase of the mare. She had nicknamed her "Pia." She had traveled to Germany to train with her before the horse was brought to America.
"I am really excited for this horse and the future that we have in store together," she was quoted as saying on dressage-news.com.
She told the website that Apassionata was "eager to please and take care of her rider." At that point, Brandi sounded like someone who knew what she wanted, and maybe she did. But not all that long after giving that interview, Brandi decided she wanted to go in a different direction with her life. There was a guy involved, but she said her decision wasn't just about him.
Brandi also declared that she couldn't deal with the pressure anymore. She knew how much the horse cost, and she knew there was money riding on her performances. She knew we looked at the horse as an investment. Maybe we put too much pressure on her.
She also didn't like our rules. Tracy and I had told her that if we were going to financially support her riding career, we expected her to go to college while she was training. She didn't like our plan.
I understood how she was feeling, because there were times when I was young that I wanted to quit hockey because I believed my dad was too hard on me. I knew her feelings about the pressure were genuine. But if that was the lone issue, we could have resolved that.
Parenting is an impossible task. I love my children beyond measure, but I'm sure they have taken years off my life thanks to worrying about their futures. You hope your children grow up to be independent and strong. All parents need to let their children find their own way. You want them to have the maturity to make their own decisions. But you also feel like you have to step in when they are making poor decisions. Isn't that what parents are supposed to do?
Isn't it my job to push or inspire my child to explore all of her talents? I don't want Brandi to have regrets 20 years from now about what she did with her life. From where I'm sitting, it seems like a fine line between being an overbearing parent and a parent who wants the best for his child.
It was crushing for Tracy not to have the relationship she wanted with her daughter because of the tension brought about by Brandi's decision.
Parents strive to instill values in their children. They want their children to stick to their commitments and not quit on their dreams. On the other hand, Tracy and I understood the sacrifices that Brandi was making to compete. Having played 20 seasons in the NHL, I understand that staying on the top of your sport precludes having a normal life. Tracy understands that as well, because she disrupted her life plan to allow me to skate in the spotlight.
We understood what Brandi was giving up. Tracy would tell her to set the alarm for 5:30 every morning. They needed to be at the barn at 6:00 am every day to feed and groom the horses. For Brandi, it was starring in Groundhog Day. When you are working with horses, it's the same fucking day over and over again. That can get monotonous for a 17-year-old. She wanted to see her friends, hang out with guys, and be a normal teenager.
I understood her position, but as a parent, I believed she was throwing away a golden opportunity. I know she misses the horses. One of our horses was injured after Brandi quit the sport, and we considered putting her down. The way Brandi reacted on her Facebook page made it clear to me that she still cared deeply about the sport.
No one can relate to the emotional side of being an athlete more than me. But I also understand that there were many times in my young adult life when I wouldn't listen to Tracy or others who tried to convince me that I was making poor decisions.
I was a straight arrow when I was a teenager. I did what my parents told me. I was totally focused on my goal of making it to the National Hockey League. But once I arrived in the NHL, I began to indulge my rebellious tendencies. I stayed out too late, hung out with the wrong people, and made some poor decisions. My stubborn streak rose to the surface.
Once I put on an NHL sweater, I developed an I-can-do-no-wrong attitude, and Brandi seems to have inherited that trait from me. Her attitude is, I'm right about everything. There are parallels to our lives. She has never gotten into any real trouble, either. But just as I did early in my career, Brandi likes to stay out into the wee hours of the morning. She has people in her life who aren't always the best influences. Unquestionably, I can relate to that.
Both of us were out on our own when we were teenagers, living like grown-ups, when we were not fully mature enough to handle all of that responsibility.
I've given her my share of tough love, saying words that made me cringe. Since I travel often for my NBC job, Tracy has been left to deal with most of the issues. But I've played the bad cop on more than one occasion.
Once, Brandi called me and asked, "Do we have health insurance?"
"I have health insurance," I told her, making my point quite succinctly.
"Sorry I asked," she said, angered by my response.
She responded the way I would have responded. I had no desire to attend college, and she says college isn't for her. I have multiple tattoos. She has multiple tattoos.
Brandi has become the rebel without a cause, just like I was. The frustration for me is that I've been where she is now, believing that I knew all I needed to know. I can explain to her, in great detail, that there are decisions you make when you are young that you later regret. But she is not in a place where she wants to listen to me. I know that place because I used to live there. Tracy and others would tell me that I was making poor decisions. But I couldn't bring myself to listen.
* * *
When I talk about that period of my life, I call it the "cuckoo crazy days." I had a lot of crazy, stupid, regrettable moments, especially in the 1990s. I didn't fully appreciate that I had issues, nor was I willing to listen to anyone who suggested I was making poor choices.
My immaturity and rebellious attitude showed in one of my first appearances at the NBC Celebrity Golf Tournament at Lake Tahoe in about 1997.
Paired up with Czech tennis star Ivan Lendl, I was nervous when we started the tournament on Friday by teeing off on No. 10. I've always been a quality golfer, but back then I wasn't a contender to win the tournament like I am today.
My putting was atrocious that day. I three-putted the first six greens. Then I four-putted my seventh hole, and followed up with two more three-putts to finish with 28 putts for nine holes.
Lendl was an avid hockey fan, a regular at Hartford Whalers games, and he seemed to take great pleasure in kidding me about my struggles with the putter.
He started calling me "Lippy" after a couple of my putts lipped out after circling the hole.
Once, I was within 12 inches of the hole and Lendl said, "Close your eyes, kid, and you'll have a better chance of making it."
He was having great fun at my expense, and I was a bubbling cauldron. For several holes, I had been ready to boil over. It finally happened on the par-five No. 18. It was my ninth hole, and I found the green with my second shot, only to three-putt for a par.
As soon as dropped my third putt into the hole, I started walking off the green. I didn't even bother to retrieve my ball.
I didn't say a word as I made my way through the gallery, and marched across the beach to the water's edge. Once I arrived there, I flung the putter as far as I could into the water. I bet it traveled 40 yards in the air.
My decision to go as close as I could to the water was based on my fear that if I tried to throw the putter into the water from the green, I would have missed the water. I had missed everything else with that putter.
It never occurred to me that my problem was pilot error. I believed it was the putter's fault. I was committed to that logic.
Anger had overrun my emotions by that point. And now I had another problem, because at that point I didn't know all the rules of golf.
I didn't know that by throwing that club into the lake, I had forfeited my right to use a putter. If it had been broken in the act of a swing, I could have replaced it. Because I had drowned that club in a fit of anger, it was considered a discarded club.
My caddie Jeff Mages offered to dive into the water in an effort to find my discarded putter, but I wouldn't let him.
"Dude, do you know how many dead bodies are lying next to my putter?" I said. "I'm not letting you dive into that."
The end result was that I had to use a driver as a putter on my final nine holes that day. Somehow, I ended up with 19 putts on my second nine, nine strokes better than I totaled on the front nine. I was still pissed off when I headed off to the local Harrah's Casino to gamble.
This was at a time in my life when I was gambling too much. Feeling shitty about the way I was golfing, I tried to console myself by taking out a $50,000 marker.
I lost the whole thing in 15 minutes. I asked for another $25,000 marker.
You can see where this is going.
Although I managed to hang on to that $25,000 for a while, I did eventually lose all of that as well.
By then it was 4:30 in the morning, and I'd been drinking heavily. I was furious at myself. There was no one else in the casino. I was scheduled to tee off at 8:00 am. I should have cut my losses and headed to my room. But I wasn't that smart on that day.
I thought, Fuck it. I'm going to take out another $50,000 marker.
That was probably the dumbest decision I had made since I squared off against 220-pound Los Angeles Kings defenseman Marty McSorley for my first NHL fight during the 1989–90 season. What the hell was I thinking when I hit McSorley with that check? And what the hell was I thinking when I concluded that more gambling was in my best interest?
Taking another $50,000 that night should have been an indication that my gambling could cause me serious problems. In the past, I wagered more conservatively and could have made a $25,000 marker last all night. I had never before been this aggressive at the tables.
Now down $75,000, I took my $50,000 marker and went to the VIP room, where I played blackjack at $10,000 per hand, three hands at a time.
I started at 19 on my first hand, had a pair of threes on my second hand, and a seven and four for 11 on my third hand. I split the threes. On my first three, I drew an eight, to give me 11. But at that point I was out of money, so I had to take out another $10,000 marker. My next card was an eight, giving me 19 on that hand.
On the second of my two threes, I drew a 10, then pulled a four to give me 17 on that hand.
Now I was sitting with 19, 19, and 17 on my first three hands. I double-downed on my last hand and drew a nine to give me 20.
I had $60,000 at stake on the table, but my four hands were all potential winners. The dealer had two sevens. I was feeling confident.
I was smashed — embarrassingly drunk — and I was screaming at the dealer to pull a face card. I needed her to bust. You probably could have heard me in the next county.
Instead, the dealer drew another seven for 21.
Could there be anything worse that getting beat by three sevens?
My total loss was $135,000. I don't ever remember being angrier than I was at that moment.
The dealer shuffled the decks of cards while I sat on my stool, stewing. She handed me the yellow card to cut the deck for the shoe. Instead of sliding in the yellow card into the deck, I grabbed the entire deck and hurled it toward her. Cards exploded in every direction.
Then I picked up the chair I was sitting on and hurled it across the casino. I actually considered turning over the table but opted to walk out instead.
I had just enough time to pull myself together and play my round of golf. I shot an 85, and then I headed back to the casino.
As I walked in, there were three extra-large guys dressed in expensive suits standing there waiting for me. It looked like a scene from the movie Casino.
"Mr. Roenick," one of them said. "We'd like to have a word with you."
They lead me to the back of casino, asked me to sit down, and rolled the video of what had transpired the night before.
"We don't tolerate this kind of behavior, and we are banning you for the rest of your trip here," one guy said.
Tournament organizers also found out what I had done at the casino and banned me for one year.
I really didn't cause any monetary damage. Basically, I was banned for being a total dick. I was incredibly apologetic because I knew my behavior was three steps beyond unacceptable. My bad karma from the golf course had followed me to the casino, and I should have seen that happening.
Sometimes, it seems as if karma is the determining factor in gambling. Once, I was hanging out with a celebrity buddy at a casino and he took out $750,000 in markers and lost every dollar. He asked for another $250,000 marker, then gave $100,000 to each of the two dealers who had been at his table. That's right — this guy gave two casino employees $100,000 tips. (I will protect his identity because I believe he doesn't want his gambling habits publicized.)
Now holding only $50,000, he resumed gambling and won his $1 million back, and then some. Anyone who watched that performance came away believing in good karma.
Once, I felt the karma changing for me when I was gambling at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Every hand seemed to be going the dealer's way. I had 20, and he hit an eight for 21. I had an 18, and he drew 19. I would take a hit on 12 and bust. It was a frustrating night. Already down $70,000, I asked for another $10,000 marker. Within minutes, I had lost $9,500 of that money. The run of bad luck I was having seemed unprecedented.
I sat there holding my final $500 chip. The dealer looked impatient as I contemplated my losses. He seemed to be staring right through me. It made me want to reach across the table and rip his head off.
But the rage suddenly just went away, and I turned to a friend and said, "Well, if you have a chip, you have a chance."
I placed the $500 bet and won. Then I pressed that bet, and won again. Now I had $2,000, and I bet that amount and won. Then I bet $1,000. I won. Now sitting there with $5,000, I could feel the luck turning. "Fuck it," I said. "I've come this far, let's see if I can win again."
My bet was $5,000 and I won again. Thirty minutes later, I was sitting with $120,000 in chips in front of me. I paid off my markers and then got the fuck out of Dodge. When you magically transform a $500 chip into $100,000, it's time to take your winnings and call it a night. A date with good karma is always a one-night stand. Good karma lays with you for a short time and then she leaves. You don't know when she will be back. Karma can be a bitch.
My Harrah's Casino explosion did not have any long-term consequences. I return to that casino every year, and I am welcomed. Some of the long-time employees remember that night or have heard the story. One of the older guys there always says to me, "We are going to have a good trip this year, aren't we, Mr. Roenick?"
Although I've never had any trouble in a casino since that night, I've always managed to find different levels of trouble at the Lake Tahoe tournament. That's been a problem because I now work for NBC. Every year, Sam Flood, NBC's executive producer, gives me a speech about not causing any problems in Tahoe.
Excerpted from Shoot First Pass Later by Jeremy Roenick, Kevin Allen. Copyright © 2015 Jeremy Roenick. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Chris Chelios,
1. The Father's Daughter,
2. What They Don't Tell You,
3. Lucky or Good?,
4. Don't Be Cindy Brady,
5. Golfing with Gretzky,
6. Lemieux vs. Gretzky,
7. Just Sign Here,
8. Chip and a Putt Off the Old Block,
9. The Commish,
11. Two Parts Wells, One Part Barkley, and a Dash of Urlacher,
12. Benny and the Jet,
13. The Numbers Game,
14. A Year in the Life,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Haha! BAM! TAKE THAT NIGHTWINGS!<p> That was my favorite part.<p> Hm. Not one of my best reviews...
Good!! It's better than the real story.
I bought this book for my husband. He kept reading it and laughing so much I had to pick it up and give it a read. I was extremely impressed with how well the narrative was. Roenick engaged you with each story he told about his career, family and friends. It was like you could picture sitting at a bar with him listening to his tales. It also gave me a new appreciation for the man. I knew he loved his fans but to read the stories touches your heart. It makes me know that I chose the right man to follow. My favorite story was about the cat. It was wrong and made me laugh so hard I was crying. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves hockey or enjoys a few hilarious stories.