I interviewed former Chicago Blackhawks star, Jeremy Roenick, about his new book, J.R. My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey. Toward the beginning of the book, he tells a great anecdote:
When I was seven years old, I went to a Hartford Whalers game, and Gordie Howe was playing for them. A bunch of us would lean over the glass to get a better look as players skated in the pre-game warmup. During one of his laps around his zone, Mr. Hockey scooped up some ice shavings and dumped them on my head as he skated by. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen–until a couple of seconds later, when Howe looked back and winked at me.
For three seconds, it was just me and Gordie Howe connecting. That moment changed my life. I felt like Gordie had given me a gift, and I wanted to pay it back. When I arrived in the NHL, I made sure I connected with fans the way Gordie had taught me to do.
Imagine if you’re a young hockey fan like Roenick and one of the hockey gods literally picks you out of the crowd and anoints you with ice shavings…and then winks at you! It’s easy to understand how that could have been a life-changer. Roenick says that as a player he made it a point to always try to connect with kids, too, because he never knew what impact his gesture might have. He said that over the years, he’s heard from many people who’ve said something like, “I’ll never forget when you did thus-and-such for my kid–it meant so much to him.” That’s awesome in itself, but I think the story has another dimension.
I’m no huge hockey fan and although I have heard of Howe, I know relatively little about him. But Roenick’s story makes me like Howe. And you know that Roenick has told the story hundreds of times before including it in his book. Howe’s small gesture had the unintended consequence of being a seed that sprouted many tellings — including this one–all to Howe’s credit. A good lesson for all of us about what we ultimately sow.
You can read an excerpt from Roenick’s book and watch my interview with him here later tonight. And, if you want more? Watch my web-exclusive conversation with him here.