If you want to talk about confidence, Jeremy Roenick is a good place to start. In fact,
he may be the place to start.
As a player, the Massachusetts native exuded confidence throughout a career that included more than 1,300 NHL games, more than 500 goals, an Olympic medal and induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I think confidence comes from your desire to want to win, to want to compete, that inner feeling to not want to lose,” says Roenick. “I always wanted to be on top.”
Roenick is also quick to point out that not all of this brash, full-bore, hammer-down confidence is such a bad thing.
“You can still be a great guy and love people, and respect people, and treat people with a lot of courtesy,” he says, “but there are also people who want to have others look at them and say, ‘Wow.’ There's an entertainment aspect to it. There's a winning aspect to it. Some people like the attention and the eyes on them, and some people don't. I have always been the kind of guy who was willing to push the envelope.”
In part one of our two part series, Roenick tells us how attitude, fearlessness and a lot of hard work helped carve him into the confident player and person he still is today.
Don’t trust fear
When Roenick entered the League only a few years removed from Thayer Academy, he was one of the smaller players on the ice. And he was afraid. But not of what you might think.
“As much as I wanted to win, I wasn't afraid of losing,” Roenick says. “I wasn't afraid of not succeeding. Everybody's going to lose. Everybody's going to fail. So, to be afraid of that is almost ridiculous.”
Failure, as we’ve come to learn, can be an important step toward a player’s development. Roenick, one of the League's most accurate shooters in his day, took a lot of shots that didn't go in. But he also put in the hours to know that he was going to succeed.
More to confidence than talent
At some point, even the most skilled players are going to have to work. Hard.
“There's no question about it,” Roenick says. “You don't just become good. You're born with certain genes and talent, there's no question, and some may be more coordinated than others, but you have to hone those traits that you're given. The days that you're sore, are you going to still get out there and battle and compete, or are you going to let that pain and distraction keep you from putting in those hours?”
In Roenick’s experience, the line between a good athlete and a superstar isn’t always so fine.
“The superstars are able to ignore the challenges and the hardships and the distractions and push further than other people will,” he says. “So, when other people get tired and don't think they can do it anymore, they stop and they quit. The superstars, when they get tired and sore and feel a lot of pain, they push one or two more times. They push it to the limit. Those are the guys that are more prepared, that are more successful.”
As a youth player, even at the age of 10 and in his driveway, Roenick, who not long after his youth hockey days scored 84 points in a 24-game Thayer Academy season and 16 points in seven games for Team USA at the 1989 IIHF World Junior Championship, would often find himself bound and determined to hit all three posts as a personal challenge before he'd quit on that driveway session.
Just how much of his confidence was gained through practice then, when no one was looking?
“Ohmygod, all the time,” Roenick says. “All the time. I can't even tell you how frustrated I used to get shooting pucks in my driveway. I thought it would take me five or 10 minutes. Sometimes it would take me 30. And the frustration … But I couldn't leave. I couldn't leave until I did it.
“I'd hit two and miss the third, and I'd have to start all over again," he says. "So it's shooting, shooting, shooting, and frustration. Two again. Start all over again. Once you're able to stay with it until you get it done, until you succeed, that gratification that you've reached is so great. But it's those people who say, ‘I can't do it,’ all of a sudden you've thrown the quit aspect into your repertoire.”
Big-boy hockey confidence
When Roenick first entered the League, this unstoppable force ran into the immovable object of Mike Keenan, the former Bruins head coach whose no-nonsense approach was as legendary as his new pupil's confidence, and he was near the height of his powers when Roenick showed up in the League as a skinny kid with gaudy scoring numbers.
And it wasn’t a fairy tale beginning.
“I was afraid of how big the guys were, how mean the guys looked,” Roenick says. “And I was small. I was little. And getting hurt was never my favorite thing to do. I didn't like pain. I didn't like getting hurt.”
Keenan knew exactly the button to push with Roenick. In a way, choosing to play with confidence wasn’t much of an option.
“When Mike Keenan sat there and told me I had to go out and throw my body around and finish checks, I'm hitting guys that are 70 pounds heavier than me,” Roenick remembers. “So, yeah, I was afraid to do that. But I was more afraid of not having a professional career, of not having my spot on the team. Then what am I going to do? That fear overcame the other fears.”
Roenick’s confidence swelled under Keenan.
He would go on to score at least 20 goals in 13 of his seasons, and he scored 40 or more foals four times, including three consecutive seasons of at least 100 points.
“I couldn’t wait to step on the ice, because I couldn’t wait to get on the stage,” he says of the times when he was making the highlights. “I couldn’t wait to get in front of 20,000 people and show off, and have people cheer for me.
It was the start of a confidence that never went away.
How do you stay confident? Share with @Mass_Hockey using the hashtag #ConfidenceBuilders, and be sure to check back for Part 2 of Confidence Building with Jeremy Roenick on March 16.