Jeremy Roenick played hockey as hard and as physically as anyone.
In 22 NHL seasons, Roenick said he suffered 13 concussions and was knocked out cold at least four times. The former Blackhawks forward also fractured his jaw twice, including once when it was broken in 23 places. Stars in his eyes became what seemed like a nightly occurrence.
He said it’s just part of the game.
“You play the game understanding the dangers of it,” Roenick told the Sun-Times.
Roenick hasn’t played in the NHL for nine years. And at 48, he said he feels “great,” despite having his “fair share of head trauma.”
“I played the game how I wanted to and the way I thought was right,” said Roenick, who finished his career with 513 goals, 703 assists and 1,216 points in 1,363 games. “I wouldn’t change it now. And whatever happens, happens. You live life once, you make your decisions and you go with it. And I’m perfectly happy with it.”
The progressive degenerative brain disease found in people who have a history of repetitive head trauma, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), is the furthest thing from Roenick’s mind. But for other former players, such as Dan Carcillo and Nick Boynton, it haunts them.
Carcillo and Boynton have pushed for the NHL to better protect its players, using Twitter and the Players’ Tribune to get their message out.
But Roenick, an analyst for NBC Sports, believes the NHL has done enough to protect against head trauma, saying, “Anybody that thinks they can get rid of concussions in this world is living a fantasy.
“What can [the league] do? You’re never going to prevent concussions. It’s a physical sport. It’s a contact sport. You’re never going to get rid of it in hockey.
“They’ve done as much as they can with the protection, and they’ve done as much as they can with the rules when they try to get guys to respect each other and protect each other.”
On numerous occasions, Carcillo has called out Roenick on Twitter for not being more outspoken against the league. Roenick said he doesn’t agree with the way Carcillo has been going about his business.
“[Carcillo] has his reasons of doing what he does and he has his beliefs and he goes through his life feeling the way he feels from playing the game, so he sticks up for what he believes in and I think anyone can appreciate that,” said Roenick, who was in Vernon Hills last week for his youth-hockey clinic.
“I think some of his tactics are a little off or he could be doing it in a little more positive way. But you have to give him credit and respect him for sticking up for his beliefs and for the people he believes in.”
Roenick said he doesn’t have anything against Carcillo, but he doesn’t agree with his methods.
“There’s a lot you can do and not take on people,” he said. “I think it’s kind of tough. But Dan has been a fighter his whole life, and he’s not going to back down from anybody. It’s one of the things I love about him.”