About-Face His jaw mended, Jeremy Roenick of the Flyers has a new playoff style

May 02, 2004

A framed X-ray of Jeremy Roenick's spectacularly broken jaw
adorns a wall in his kitchen, the only thing about him that is
black and white. The NHL's most colorful and camera-friendly
star, Roenick has also been among its most self-aggrandizing
ones: The only surprise after Tony Amonte banged in a rebound of
a Roenick shot for the Flyers' second goal of their second-round
series against Toronto was that when the red light went on,
Roenick didn't do 15 minutes of fresh material.

Although Roenick has regained all but two of the eight pounds he
lost after his jaw was shattered by an inadvertent slap shot on
Feb. 12, his face is gaunt, his cheeks concave and a four-inch
scar traces his left jawline. The mug of hockey's crossover
personality--he's a video-game coverboy, he guest stars on TV
shows--might be a mess, but he rarely has looked this good on the
ice.

As Philadelphia continues to impose itself--after whipping the
Devils in the first round, the Flyers took a 2-0 series lead on
Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs--Roenick has had at
least a point in six of seven playoff games and has done his
share of grunt work away from the puck, playing with commitment
in places where no spotlight shines. This is not JR Superstar but
a converted center playing right wing alongside Amonte and Alexei
Zhamnov on Philly's best playoff line and keeping a low, albeit
marred, profile. Harangued for his self-absorption by veteran
teammates and coach Ken Hitchcock, Roenick has added substance to
STYLES, the license plate on his white Mercedes CL600.

"You have to sacrifice things, and a lot of it is your ego,"
Roenick said last Friday. "My ego is obviously a lot bigger than
some people's. I'm not going to get a Cup by yapping my mouth
off, by doing more commercials, by doing the opposite of
everybody else. You have to throw that aside."

On the eve of the playoffs Roenick also tossed the protective
cage he had worn after returning for the final five
regular-season games. He thought that shield compromised his
game, and the symbolism of the gesture resonated. The Devils
tested Roenick immediately, with defenseman Sean Brown
challenging him in the first period of Game 1. Brown and Roenick
traded punches to the head, not part of the AMA's recommended
rehab. "That first blow freed my mind," Roenick said. "It also
let them know I'm not going to shy away." Through two games
Toronto had targeted Philadelphia's vulnerable defense but had
left Roenick alone.

"JR has found ways to fit in," Hitchcock says. "We've [had him]
killing penalties, playing against the other team's best players.
He's gotten better because of those responsibilities. He's always
been a good friend for everybody. Now he's become a really good
teammate."

COLOR PHOTO: B. BENNETT/BBS (INSET) Roenick's horrific injury (inset) isn't slowing him in round 2against Toronto. COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA [See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)