BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Funny, emotional and also humbled, Jeremy Roenick showed Thursday night that he could be as colourful and outspoken in retirement as he was during his 20-year NHL career.
During a 20-minute U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech, the player many know as "J.R." hailed USA Hockey for growing into a "world super power," thanked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance, for "letting me be me," and put to rest any bad blood he ever had with fellow inductee Derian Hatcher.
"Wow, what a night," Roenick said. "This award means everything to me."
Joining Roenick and Hatcher in the 2010 class were Hatcher's older brother, Kevin, former USA Hockey executive Art Berglund and former USA Hockey physician George Nagobads.
The ceremony was held in Buffalo as part of USA Hockey's festivities in promoting the World Under-20 Championships that will take place in the city this winter.
In paying tribute to his fellow inductees, Roenick reserved the most time and respect to Derian Hatcher, the player who broke Roenick's jaw in four places during a game late in the 1998-99 season.
"Everywhere I go, everybody asks me about Derian, and I'll put this one to rest right now," Roenick said. "Derian, I respect you, and I'm jealous of you because of your Stanley Cup. But never, ever did I feel one bit of animosity for our competitive level and what we did on the ice."
Hatcher, who was suspended for seven games for his hit on Roenick, spoke prior to the ceremony about how much respect he had for J.R. by never faulting him for getting hurt.
"I think he always felt a little awkward when I saw him, so he would go out of his way to make me feel comfortable," Hatcher said. "I think that says a lot about him."
Roenick also paid tribute to Berglund, for pioneering hockey in America. And he also didn't forget that it was Berglund, who invited Roenick to his first USA Hockey camp some 25 years ago.
"If there wasn't an Art Berglund, there wouldn't be a USA Hockey, especially not at the level that it has gotten to," Roenick said. "You introduced me to a very different world."
Earlier in the day, Roenick also spoke highly of Berglund by saying: "I can't believe it's taken so long for him to go into the Hall because he's meant so much to USA Hockey. But I'm glad it's this year. That's probably one of the best parts of tonight. I'm going in with Art Berglund."
From Boston, Roenick was a nine-time NHL all-star, two-time Olympian and seven-time 30-goal-scorer, who played in Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Los Angeles and finally San Jose, before retiring in 2009.
With 513 goals and 703 assists for 1,216 points in 1,363 games, he ranks third in career goals and points among U.S.-born players.
The Hatchers, from suburban Detroit, made names for themselves as defencemen, and for playing two distinct styles.
Kevin was noted for his offence over a 17-year career that began in Washington and ended in 2001 after one season with Carolina. With 677 career points (227 goals and 450 assists), he ranks eighth among American-born defencemen in points, and third in goals.
Derian Hatcher was the far more physical player during a 16-year career that ended in 2008, and split between Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia. He finished with 331 points, and most notably became the first American-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 1999 as a member of the Dallas Stars.
It was not lost on Derian that the Cup-clinching victory in triple-overtime of Game 6 took place in Buffalo and in the very same arena he was being honoured.
"As I was walking in, I said, 'Every time we come back in here, you always had that feeling of excitement'," Hatcher said, before pointing to the Stanley Cup ring he was wearing. "That's the first time I've worn it in probably two years so yeah, the last couple of days I've thought about it a lot."
Berglund spent five decades in numerous positions with USA Hockey before retiring in 2005, and still continues to work as a consultant. He was on the staff of more than 30 national teams, including serving as player personnel director for three Olympic teams.
Nagobads, who eventually became USA Hockey's chief medical officer, served as team doctor on five Olympic teams, including the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" squad that won the gold medal at the Lake Placid Games.
Nagobads shared several behind-the-scenes stories about his overseas trips with numerous teams. But even Nagobads was aware of Roenick's presence, and ended his speech by saying, "I can tell you stories until tomorrow morning. But I'm sure Jeremy has better ones."
Aside from his on-ice ability, Roenick was known for being an outspoken player, who could be both blunt and colourful. And he made note of that when recognizing Bettman at a table near the podium.
"Thank you for letting me speak my mind, letting me have a personality, and for everything you've done for the National Hockey League and where you've brought it. It's truly a better game now than it ever has been," Roenick said. "Thank goodness I'm retired because there's no way I could play with these kids today."