Thursday, July 5, 2007

Say Goodbye To The Most Dominant Athlete In The History of Video Gaming

"The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” - Benjamin Disraeli.

With the announcement today that Jeremy Roenick is hanging up the skates, people were probably left with a complex set of emotions about how they will best remember Jeremy and what will be his ultimate legacy. As a modern day athlete, the name "Jeremy Roenick" conjures a multitude of emotions. His more public sports image is that of the outspoken and brash American hockey star who led some very good Blackhawks teams into the playoffs and nearly to a much longed-for Stanley Cup who, along with Modano, was the face of American-born hockey for about 15 years but one who was never the best player in the league and never had enough to propel his team to a championship. More recently with injuries impacting his on-ice performance, he let his talking do the talking (specifically he told the fans to kiss his ass during the lockout) and the public began to turn on the once beloved star. It was a sad turn of events that may ultimately be his lasting legacy considering he never won a Cup and didn't play on one team long enough to develop an enduring "in jersey" legacy for fans to hold onto. But the other side of the Jeremy Roenick is the side the I will remember best. This was the guy who ran over defenders, was faster than everyone on the ice and deeked out goalies so badly that they would dive the wrong way as he went top shelf over and over and over again. He had the ability to score upwards of 18 goals a game in a contest consisting of 3 five minute periods. You may also remember this Jeremy Roenick. This was Jeremy Roenick of Sega Hockey '93.

Immortalized by Vince Vaughn in the 1996 film Swingers, Jeremy Roenick's Sega Hockey personality was by far the most dominant force in the history of video gaming (for a more detailed look at the top 10 video game athletes, read this). Better than Bo Jackson, Ronnie Lott or LT in Tecmo Bowl, more dominating than Vince Coleman on the basepaths of RBI baseball and more impressive than doing the javelin throw on "Track & Field" with the Turbo button. It wasn't that Roenick had the best talent numbers (speed, checking, shot power, etc.) in that game (I believe those belonged to Fedorov) or that there was some abnormal cheat written into the code like LT's abilities to block every kick in Tecmo Bowl, there was just something about Roenick that allowed him to slice throw the defense, run over defenders and deek the goalie on almost every occasion. There was nothing like it in the game (In fact, secretly, the second best player in the entire game was Petr Klima of the Oilers followed closely by Rosie Ruzicka of the B's. Klima was just a little more lithe than Roenick and a good defender like Chelios really gave him a hard time. But that's another discussion for another time...). Any time Roenick won the faceoff, it was almost a certain goal. He was unstoppable. My friends and I spent countless nights trying to solve the Roenick riddle and figure out the best way to defend against his otherwordly skillset to no avail. After awhile, in the summer of 1999 I believe, no one would play the game if one of the teams was the Blackhawks because it was just too unfair (which is when I discovered Petr Klima's talents). It just wasn't fun anymore. He became something of a legend and instead of watching him play on the smallscreen, we told stories about the times he played and the things he did. It's something in 20+ years of athletic video gaming that I'd never experienced before or since.

So when people step back and remember Jeremy Roenick the player, you'll have to excuse me if I don't shed a tear for Roenick or get into an argument about his controversial exit from the game. His place in history for me is well-settled. For me, Roenick retired in the summer of 1999. And I'll already remember him as the greatest force in the history of video gaming.


Gabe said...

Not only was Roenick unstoppable, but with the Blackhawks, Ed Belfour was unbeatable in goal. He was the only goalie in the game who could stop the Move with any kind of regularity.

Christian said...

Actually, I think the Mike Ridley/Peter Bondra was the most unstoppable. Ridley's 6-7 second goals from faceoffs caused many thrown controllers in my college apartment.

Stewart said...

My brother used to be able to score every time he touched the puck with Pavel Bure. Totally unstoppable.
We used to institute a rule about not being able to use 'the move' unless you were on a clear cut breakaway.

David said...

I suggest you check out the Sabers of that period, they had the skills to match the Hawks (maybe only in '94 though). Lafontaine & Mogilny on the same line the one timers were unstoppable. One guy would be the Sabers the other the Blackhawks and we would have 17-18 goals for each side in 5 minute periods.

Quentin said...

Ah, the move. I've only seen it fail one time in over 1000 games... the single greatest code ever written in video game history. Would be a great way to increase scoring in the NHL if the league would mandate any player performing "the move" automatically be credited with a goal.

Vince said...

University of Florida, 1993. I remember the sega game had no names, only numbers. We went to the UF library in search of an NHL almanac - that was as easy to find as a clean floor at the Pruple Porpoise.

Finally found a 1990 almanac, and we finally discovered the real name of #27, who had up to that point been called "Jetboy"!

My roomy (RIP) routinely beat everyone 21-7 in that darned game.

Luol Dang! said...

@Stewart - Pavel was easily the fastest player in the game (Stevie Y was the only one in the same stratosphere) but you could knock him off the puck with Lidstrom or Bourque. Roenick had the complete package. I will say that that Canucks team may have been the best complete team in the game. Kirk McLean was unbeatable in "non-Move" play.

@Vince - I was actually trying to figure out the true year that Roenick was so dominant. The year Roenick dominated was the last year before the one-timer and the last year of fighting. It also had all the players' names. I was under the impression this was Sega '93 but several people have insisted that '93 didn't have the actual names.

Can someone clear this up for me?

Gabe said...

NHLPA '93 on Sega definitely had real names.