Once a bruising NHL star forward, Jeremy Roenick is now one of the most prominent national hockey analysts in the American market. You'll most often find him delivering brash analysis or providing some comic relief for the NHL on NBC.
He's also at the forefront of the Kraft Hockeyville initiative -- an annual competition that awards much-needed financial support to local rinks in passionate hockey communities. The program has been held annually in Canada since 2006, but it expanded to the United States in 2015. In addition to receiving $150,000 for rink upgrades, the winner gets to host an NHL preseason game.
CBS Sports got the chance to talk to Roenick about the program, which is getting ready to pick another winner this spring. We also spoke about a variety of other topics -- including the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the recent NHL trade deadline, his music interests, and his current pop culture interests. For better or for worse, Roenick usually isn't hesitant to speak his mind.
Here's our chat, in full.
How was your Olympics experience in South Korea? How did it compare to the other Games you've been to?
It was a really interesting place to go to. I enjoyed it. The people were amazing. They put on a great show. The facilities were fantastic. The food was average. We had a good tournament. I'd say we didn't have the greatest tournament, but it still had its moments and its stories. You know, we almost had an upset winner and a very unlikely winner [in the men's tournament with Germany]. But, all in all, it was it was a great Olympics.
To see the [United States] women win was fantastic. U.S. represented itself well. I would say it's one of the better ones I've been to. Still I think Vancouver was still my favorite, and obviously winning the silver in Salt Lake was up there too.
I was going to ask you what the highlight was for you. Was it was the women winning or was it something else?
Yeah, it was the women. It really was. You know I've been following them for all this year through their fight for equal pay with USA Hockey, and how they've been so disappointed over the last two Olympics by winning silver. They just seemed to be on that ride and to feel that exhilaration when they got it done this year ... that was the highlight for me.
Did it feel any different this year? Because I know that you've been with them through their fight for equitable support. Did it did it feel any different being around them after they had won that battle?
It did. It really did because I saw their disappointment in Sochi. You know after that -- that overtime loss on a power play -- you know, we saw the tears. I saw them losing in Vancouver. So, when you have that kind of heartache, you know how much it meant to Megan [Duggan] and to Hilary [Knight] and to Amanda Kessel. Those are some big-time competitors that got the job done. It was really nice to see.
Obviously the men's team fell short, but how would you grade their tournament as a whole?
Oh, very average. I think very average. I think it was interesting and nice to see that the college kids performed well and represented themselves well. [Ryan] Donato is going to be great in Boston. I think Troy Terry upped his stock tremendously. I think Jordan Greenway proved that he's going to be a good professional -- probably a better pro than he is a college player. But all in all, the men's men's team was just average.
I mean hindsight's 20/20, but do you think that they should have taken more of the college kids?
I think so. I mean these are the kids that are going to be representing the National Hockey League. I think sometimes these young kids bring more energy, more youthful enthusiasm. Sometimes more of an effort. Sometimes when you have younger kids, there's no inhibition…they just go and play. That's what we saw happen with the young kids, and with the young women. [Team USA women's goalie] Maddie Rooney is 20 years old and she performed at such a high level and never had been to that level before. Sometimes being naive is the best thing.
Did it feel a little bit weird or ironic to you that the Russian team won?
It did feel weird, but they do have the second-best professional league in the world. And the Russians in general are so talented and they're so skilled. But the fact that they couldn't perform under their flag, it was kind of ironic and weird, you know?
Who do you think won the NHL trade deadline?
Tampa Bay, without question. To get a defenseman like [Ryan] McDonagh, who's a great leader, a very smart hockey man ... plus J.T. Miller, who is a low power forward, a big body who can score goals and a nice third line guy. They add that to an already sick team. I think their Stanley Cup odds are higher than they were before the trade deadline.
I think the Bruins did pretty well ... if Rick Nash finds a spark in second part of the year. He's been known to kind of disappear offensively but when he wants to go and he puts his mind to it, he's unstoppable. He can be a good addition to Boston if he plays to his capabilities.
How do you feel about what the Rangers got in return for those deals?
I think they did OK. I mean, [Vladislav] Namestnikov is a good player. But when you go into a rebuild, draft picks are very important. To get some of these draft picks is going to be huge for them down the line, but it's kind of hard for a team to pretty much give in and go to a rebuild like the Rangers are. They got some good stuff, but I still think for McDonough and Miller they probably could have gotten a little bit more. We'll see how that pans out with the draft picks.
Was there a team that you felt had a particularly disappointing deadline?
St. Louis, for sure. They give up their number one or number two center in Paul Stastny, which was kind of surprising to me, and didn't pick up anybody really significant.
I thought the Kings would probably do something to improve their lineup, although they did have Jeff Carter come back and they did get [Dion] Phaneuf, who's been playing great hockey for them. I was surprised that Washington didn't really try to go out and bolster their lineup a little bit because they've seemed to be the ones that haven't been able to get over the hump.
On the flip side of the Stastny deal, how big is that move for Winnipeg? Not only the fact that they just got a good center in Stastny, but the fact that he waived to go there. How big is that for that organization?
It's really big. I mean that's one team that is now starting to get a little bit more attention towards the end of the season. I can see them coming out of the West very easily, especially now with having a quality player like Stastny, who can help on the power play. They're stacked. They're a tough team to play against – big; strong; fast; can score; mean. Look out for Winnipeg, for sure.
Who is leading your Hart ballot at this point? I know a lot of the media out there has been praising Patrice Bergeron, but obviously now he's out indefinitely, so who's on your list?
I think Bergeron is definitely up there. Nathan MacKinnon is very high on my list. If he didn't get hurt, I think he'd be my surefire No. 1 right now. [Nikita] Kucherov has got to be up there near the top. I floated William Karlsson in Vegas. He's got 34-35 goals on an expansion team that that's top-three, top-two in the league right now. That's kind of hard for people to grasp, but … man, what a year that kid's had.
I also think Claude Giroux is another guy who's bounced back in a big way this year. And the Flyers are now on top of the metro and are on a roll. He's the main reason for it.
You brought up William Karlsson, but what about Erik Karlsson in Ottawa? How do you feel like that situation is going to shake out?
I don't know. That seems like it's a mess right now. I don't know how that's going to play out. I wonder whether he's going to want to play for that team after this contract. I think he's going to want to go to a place where he has a chance to win and it doesn't seem like Ottawa is that close right now.
Tell me about this program with Kraft Hockeyville that you've been doing. You've been involved with it for a couple years now. What's been your favorite experience so far?
Kraft Hockeyville is one of my favorite things I do every year because we find the small communities, the most passionate hockey communities where our future NHL stars are going to be coming from. Kraft puts hockey in the forefront, so they're trying to find the most passionate hockey community in America.
In return, they're giving the $150,000 to a local rink for upgrades. We know a lot of rinks in America are beaten up and need some big-time help financially. They're given $150,000 in rink upgrades and the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game. And I've seen the look on kids' faces when NHL players roll into their local arena and play right there on the same arena that they play their squirt games or their peewee games.
It's an amazing program. It's a great way to get communities together to bond to rally around their community and show why they're the most passionate hockey community. It's been fantastic over the first three years. March 10 is the deadline to enter. So anybody that has not entered your local arena, go on to KraftHockeyville.com before March 10. Write a letter. Tell us about your community. Tell us about your arena and why your community is the most passionate hockey community.
…. So we're going to announce the winner on April 14 right on NBC during our telecast at 3 in the afternoon.
You mentioned the fact that there's a lot of arenas or a lot of local rinks that need help and could use upgrades. What's been one of the worst youth rinks that you've ever come across?
Wow, I've been in so many of them. You know, I used to play in Richfield, Connecticut where the rink had only one side and the other two sides were wide open with a picket fence on the side. We didn't have glass. I remember getting hit and having my helmet caught on the fencing where you would have glass. I think there's 2300 arenas in America and I'm sure more than 70-percent of them are in need of some financial help. That's why Kraft Hockeyville is so important to youth hockey around the United States. They're making hockey a better place for kids to play. I love it.
Awesome. I just wanted to close out with a couple of random ones. I know you're a huge fan of Kid Rock. Who are some of your other favorite musicians?
Oh, Justin Timberlake. He's great. I always say I want to come back in my next life as Justin Timberlake. He can act, he can dance, he can do everything. I just love him.
I'm a big Nickelback fan. I love Chad Kroeger. He's another big fan of mine, and I'm a fan of his. We get along really well. I'm a big Drake fan, so all my music goes around the gamut except for country music. I'm not a big country music fan.
How did you feel about Timberlake's halftime show?
I thought it was good. I thought he had a tough scale … to have to all the different things that he did -- he started inside, he went outside to different sets, the different stages. I love how he went up into the crowd and interacted with the kid, who took the selfie. I thought it was good. It sounded good to me over the over the television … I don't know what it was like there in person but he did enough for me to give it a good rating.
The Oscars are this weekend. What's your favorite movie that you've seen this year?
I could care less about the Oscars.
Have you seen anything? You don't have a single favorite movie this year?
I haven't seen the water movie ["The Shape of Water"]. I wanted to see it but I just couldn't. The best movie I've probably seen in the last little while was "Lion". It was one of my favorite movies I've seen in a long time. But I don't know …I don't know all the ones that are up [for nominations this year.] To listen to a lot of these Hollywood people make me sick, so I'm not going to watch anyway.
Why do you say that?
I just don't like how politics come into entertainment. I don't like it. I don't think there's a place for it. I don't like the arguments. I don't like the ability to say whatever you want and not have any responsibility for your actions. I just think it's stupid. Entertainment should be entertainment, whether it's sports or Hollywood. Leave the politics for the politicians.
Gotcha. OK. Alright.
They think for some reason they can tell us all about how we want to live our lives when they live nice little comfortable lives themselves. I'm not into that.
I'd rather watch their movies and be entertained and not listen to them talk.