HOCKEYVILLE GUEST — NHL center Jeremy Roenick, who started his professional career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988 and retired with the San Jose Sharks in 2009, spoke to a crowd at Hamilton College as part of a fund-raiser for the Clinton Arena Improvement Fund Sept. 24. (Photo courtesy of Kraft Hockeyville USA)
Former NHL star commends ‘legendary hockey town’ Hockeyville winners
CLINTON — “We are a legendary hockey town.”
Andrew Burns, Hamilton College Class of 1978 and organizer of the Thank You Albert Prettyman Centennial Hockey Celebration earlier this year, introduced retired National Hockey League center Jeremy Roenick to a packed crowd at Hamilton College’s Tolles Pavilion Sept. 24 for a fund-raiser dinner that supported the Clinton Arena Improvement Fund.
The dinner was part of a four-day celebration of Clinton being named the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville 2018 contest back in April, securing about $150,000 in arena upgrades and hosting the Sept. 25 pre-season NHL game featuring the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Burns began his introduction with a video about Prettyman and the history of hockey in Clinton and what that means for the village and Town of Kirkland today. He also gave recognition to the “legendary team,” the Clinton Comets, asking alumni in attendance to stand who included Dave Armstrong, Jack Kane, Borden Smith and Pierre Provost, among others. Even legendary broadcaster Stan Fischler, known for his commentary during intermissions for New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders games on the MSG network, was seen in a two-minute video recognizing the Comets and hockey in Clinton.
“...And it all started about 100 yards from here,” Burns pointed out.
Before Burns took the podium, however, Hamilton College President David Wippman offered some opening words, noting his hockey roots being from Minnesota and commending the rich hockey tradition of the area he now calls home.
“Hockey is a bit more serious here,” Wippman noted of the college and community in comparison to the Fighting Mondales where he began his career as dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.
Recognizing Hamilton as competing in the “best Division III conference in the country,” Wippman aroused applause for the men’s and women’s hockey teams in attendance, especially for the men’s known to have the highest average GPA on the campus.
Roenick joked he was impressed with the men’s academics, recalling during his younger days having to practically teach some players “how to tie their own shoes.”
“We didn’t look as good as you guys,” he laughed.
But the retired NHL star, known to be one of the only three American-born players to score 500 goals in their careers, was visibly emotional, saying he was “choked up” by Fischler’s comments in his video. During his remarks, Fischler compared Roenick to the great “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe.
“For him to say something like that about me is pretty cool,” Roenick said.
The NHL star, who spent his 18-season career with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, as well as representing Team USA in multiple international competitions, said he enjoyed spending the last few days learning about the rich tradition and history of hockey in the Clinton community.
He congratulated Clinton for being recognized by Kraft Hockeyville as the “most passionate hockey community in the country,” noting that it was “one heck of an accomplishment” after competing against at least 1,700 other arenas across the nation.
“There’s no question that hockey is the greatest, most respectful sport in the world,” Roenick said. “So I wanted to let you know how big of an accomplishment this was. To come up and rally as you did” in a contest where all 50 states were represented, “is an amazing thing, and the great thing is every single one of you guys took part in it.”
Roenick’s remarks were met by cheers and applause from the audience. The former player also noted that Hockeyville has brought the community “even closer together.”
Roenick also joked with the former “crazy” Comets in the crowd, stating, “We would have had some glass fighting together.”
He also shared memories of how back in 1977 “Gordie Howe dumped snow on my head,” and it was that 30-seconds, as well as recalling the great Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, that influenced his love and passion for the game.
“I promise tomorrow” during the Sabres-Blue Jackets game, “you’ll be blown away by the look on all the kids’ faces — it will be something you’ve never seen before,” Roenick said. “They’ll get to see the best talent they’ve ever seen in person right here on their home ice in front of them, so then they’ll have that dream — maybe I can do that one day — this is something to strive for. Your kids of Clinton will get a special treat tomorrow.”
The player closed his remarks by saying he does several events throughout the year, but that Hockeyville in Clinton was so far “the best event in the best hockey town.”
“You rallied as a community and beat the odds...and that makes you guys a stronger community,” he said.
Festivities ended with the auctioning of a Clinton Arena painting signed by Roenick and all the former Comets in attendance, was well as tickets to an NHL Stanley Cup game with Roenick, which went for a closing bid of $2,500 for the Clinton Arena Improvement Fund.