BUFFALO, N.Y. — In his 21 years as a professional hockey player, Jeremy Roenick established himself as one of the top American-born players of all time.
Inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, Roenick’s 513 goals and 1,216 points spanning five National Hockey League teams rank him fourth in both categories among American players. Additionally, he put on the Team USA sweater six times: two Olympics, two International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships, one Men’s World Championship and one Canada Cup.
But now, a few years into his retirement from the NHL, Roenick’s attention has turned in a different direction: behind the bench.
“I’m not an X’s and O’s guy, but I know the game extremely well,” he said. “When I’m watching the game, I always want to grab somebody and say ‘What were you thinking? Why were you doing that? You have to do this.’”
He had the opportunity to give coaching a try for the first time at the 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 24 in Buffalo, New York. Aided by assistant coach Chris Luongo, he directed 21 of the top 42 draft eligible American-born players as they competed in front of a crowd of fans, scouts and general managers.
Though the players’ main focus was to draw the attention of the scouts in attendance, many of the young stars on Team Roenick also used the game as an opportunity to take in Roenick’s advice.
“He’s just a really positive guy,” said Chad Krys, a member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program who skated for Team Roenick at the game. “It’s been awesome to have a guy coaching us with so much NHL experience. It’s pretty cool.”
When asked about his newfound interest in a different sector of the game, Roenick credited USA Hockey’s growing commitment to youth development, including the NTDP, player development camps, international tournaments and the prospects game.
Roenick discussed the major impact USA Hockey’s American Development Model has had on the game. He said he believes downsizing games to smaller areas and keeping kids within a confined space keeps young players more interested in the game.
He also joked about the quickening physical development of players, saying that when he was playing, he didn’t see an abdominal muscle on a hockey player until he was 26 years old.
“All these kids in there, they’re all shredded up and they’re built like men but look like boys,” he said. “And they’ve been bred because of USA Hockey since they were eight years old. You look at the development and watch them skate, and it’s incredible to watch what these kids can do on two blades and a stick.”
Having been with NBC Sports as an NHL studio analyst since 2010, he said he’s at the age where he’s ready to dive into the game in a new way. And with his wide-ranging experiences in the sport, he’s ready to take on a new challenge and immerse himself in the growing youth hockey development in the United States.
“There’s only so much TV you can do, there’s only so much traveling you can do,” he said. “There comes a time where I think you want to use what you’ve learned and what you’ve done to help somebody else get there, and that’s kind of where I’m at.”