J.R. wants to be a Sen ... or a Leaf

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Leave it to Jeremy Roenick to up the hatred between the Senators and Maple Leafs.

After announcing this week that he would like to play in Canada before his NHL career is over, the 36-year-old soon-to-be unrestricted free agent told the Sun yesterday that Ottawa and Toronto are at the top of his wish list.

Speaking from Los Angeles, Roenick, who spent last season with the Kings, feels Ottawa or Toronto would provide what he's looking for as his career winds down.

"I've always had a lot of respect for the Senators and I know that they would be a great team to play with because they've got a lot of talent and a chance to win the Stanley Cup," said Roenick.

"As for Toronto, that would be great as well. Toronto is the hockey mecca. People live and breathe the game there. They care about it. They are such passionate fans. What hockey player wouldn't want to be part of something like that? It would be special for that to happen."

Roenick is coming off a disastrous season with the Kings and he's determined to make up for it. He said he's in the gym in Los Angeles early every day and dedicated himself to returning to the top of his game.

"Last year was just atrocious for me. I was embarrassed by what happened. I know that what I have to think about right now is being a (bleeping) hockey player, man," said Roenick, who was dealt to the Kings by the Flyers.

"I'm not going to be the guy who everybody can come and get for the great quote anymore. I'm going to be a hockey player first. A guy who performs on the ice. I'm going to be leader, but I'm going to lead by my performance. All I think I've been good for the last four years is somebody who can give people something to write. I'm not going to be a spokesman for the game anymore. I'm going to be a hockey player."

Before television stations, radio outlets and newspapers everywhere panic, Roenick admitted he wanted to go to a place where hockey got front page coverage ... all the time.

"Philadelphia was a great hockey city, but the Eagles are still No. 1 there," said Roenick. "I don't want to go to a place where hockey is buried on page D4 in the sports section. I want to go to a place where hockey is on the front page and people care about the game.

"People in Canada love the game. It would be fun to play in that kind of atmosphere because you'd know when you make something happen that people are going to notice. It would help me because I don't think I've been close to playing the game the way that I am capable of playing it."

But Roenick is well aware if he does sign with a team like Ottawa or Toronto there would be plenty of pressure to produce.

"That doesn't scare me one bit. I have never backed away from pressure in my career and I am not about to start right now, I can guarantee you that. Every athlete wants the pressure and they should want to live for the pressure," said Roenick.

"That's what should make you tick ... the pressure. If people in Canada put pressure on you, then that means they care and they expect you to perform. I've always wanted one chance to play in Canada in my career. I'm going to play four or five more years and I'd certainly like at least one of those years to be in Canada and to have that kind of experience."

The Senators could use a centre like Roenick if he is able to perform to his capabilities. He is willing to accept a contract with bonus clauses and has great memories of Ottawa after spending his junior career across the river with the Hull Olympiques.

"I have great memories of Ottawa and the area. I loved every minute I played there and I would love to go back there to help them win a Stanley Cup. That would be something I would love to be a part of," said Roenick.

Hopefully, Senators GM John Muckler is listening.


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