Roenick's rare tears sell game

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

The Stanley Cup playoffs were such a great boon to the NHL, they must have felt some tears of joy coming on.

In fact, if you were watching the Chicago Blackhawks victory on NBC, you witnessed some crying, but not from players, coaches or fans.

There was a truly remarkable scene on NBC's analyst panel as Jonathan Toews was hoisting the Cup after Game 6's overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jeremy Roenick, who played with both teams, could barely contain himself giving the 'Hawks congratulations.

"You deserve it," Roenick said on a panel with Dan Patrick and Mike Milbury. "I've been there, I know what it's like. This is an emotional thing for me. Both these teams were warriors. They went out and did great things for the National Hockey League.

"Chicago, really enjoy this one. To the kid who was crying when I came off the ice in 1992 when we lost Game 4 at Chicago Stadium . . . You waited 18 years. I hope you have a big smile on your face."

A stunned Patrick then asked Roenick why this victory was affecting him so much.

"It's the Chicago Blackhawks," Roenick said as he burst into tears with emotion that should endear him -- and the game -- to U.S. fans. "We didn't get to do that. It's pretty unbelievable."

An uncomfortable Milbury then jumped in, seemingly trying to save Roenick some embarrassment.

"I didn't get to do it either but I'm not going to cry," Milbury said. "Way to go kid. You had a hell of a career anyway. You see the guys down there, you never know when you get a chance."

"I'm proud, I'm happy," Roenick muttered, while Milbury continued talking.

"This guy (Roenick) blocks shots with his nose. In 18 years he got one chance. I went to the final my first two years in the league and lost it and never got another chance. That's how rare a bird this trophy is."

The strange moment was a nice capper to a great playoff run for the Hawks, Flyers and NHL viewership in the U.S.

There was talk in American media this series didn't have the star power of Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.

But hockey draws more when strong markets are involved, not from individuals on the ice.

Game 6 drew a 5.8 rating, which was up 42% over last year's Game 6 between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. The 5.8 is tied with Game 7 of the 2003 final as the highest since 1974.

The final ratings were up 843% in Chicago and 457% in Philadelphia, but also strong in Buffalo, Denver and Phoenix.

Coverage of Game 2 was the best overnight rating on record, while the first two games were the best in 11 years.

When Chicago basketball star Michael Jordan is at the hockey game wearing a Patrick Kane jersey, you knew excitement was building.

All those years of expansion to sunshine belt cities to build interest in hockey seem like a waste of time now.

All the NHL needed was a franchise with a long history to turns itself into a winner to become popular again.

At least Roenick was around to witness it.

"I wish this would happen more," he said at the closing of NBC's broadcast.

Don't we all.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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