SAN JOSE, Calif. – Jeremy Roenick was playing golf when he received a call from San Jose general manager Doug Wilson asking about the possibility of playing for the Sharks.
“Sometimes friends come and save you,” Roenick said of his former Chicago teammate. “Just when I thought that it was all over, Doug Wilson asked me to fly to San Jose and talk about playing for the Sharks. He asked me if I could still play the game and I told him I know I could still play.”
Roenick recalled that story on Thursday, announcing his retirement after 20 years in the league.
“In Phoenix, I wasn’t able to say goodbye to the game,” Roenick said. “Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks gave me my life back. I can sit here and make my own decision to hang them up and move on.”
Roenick, choking up throughout his farewell speech, leaves the game as one of four Americans who scored at least 500 goals. He finished with 513.
“This is a great day for me,” Roenick said. “I had the greatest career I could possibly imagine. My body can’t do it any more even though my head and my passion are still in the game. I know, truly in my heart, it’s time to leave the game.”
Roenick also had 703 assists in 1,363 regular-season games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Sharks.
Roenick added 53 goals and 69 assists in 154 playoff games, and his six goals in Game 7s is tied for second all time.
“I was a big fan of his a long time before I met him,” Sharks forward Jody Shelley said. “You can’t meet a better teammate.”
He was a key part of the 1991 Blackhawks that won the Presidents’ Trophy and reached the Stanley Cup final. Chicago lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I haven’t won a Stanley Cup and that will haunt me for a long time,” Roenick said. “Otherwise I have no regrets; nothing I’ve done, nothing I’ve said.”
He’s one of 24 players with at least 500 goals and 700 assists, and 17 of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Roenick was a nine-time all-star and a two-time Olympian. He scored his 500th goal in San Jose and then hoisted his son, Brett, on his shoulder and skated around the ice.
“That was a real moment,” Wilson said.
His 500th goal was a fluke. He was trying to clear the puck, hit it off the glass and had it ricochet into the net. He has that piece of the glass in his home as a memento.
Several of his Sharks’ teammates of the past two seasons were in attendance. Many former NHL teammates, including Mike Modano, Chris Chelios and Keith Tkachuk called in during the announcement to extend their congratulations.
“He is one of the greatest hockey players to play this game,” Wilson said. “He played hard. He was fearless. He’d go through the wall. I’ve had guys come up to me and say he was the greatest teammate they ever had.”
As a kid growing up in New England, Roenick would watch the Hartford Whalers work out.
“I’d lean my head over the glass and watch these guys,” Roenick said. “Once, when I was seven years old, Gordie Howe got a bunch of snow on his stick, skated over and dumped it on my head. I thought that was the coolest thing and I’ve always carried that with me.
“He skated around a little more, then looked at me and winked. For three seconds it was just me and Gordie Howe. That small amount of gratitude resonated my whole life. It was a gift to me and when I reached the NHL, I made sure to acknowledge the fans.”