This was a piece I co-wrote with Hockeybuzz Flyers reporter Bill Meltzer in Oct 2010. I spoke with former Flyers center Jeremy Roenick about some of his former teammates that were goaltenders. It was a sidebar article that was suppossed to appear in Hockeybuzz Magazine, an online magazine for HockeyBuzz, but it was never published.
Sidebar: Nutty Netminders: Roenick’s 3 craziest goalie teammates
Goaltenders are notorious for being a little, well, different. It takes a certain level of insanity to make a job out of getting hit by a frozen rubber disc flying at up to 100 miles per hour. But if anyone can appreciate uniqueness, it’s recent United States Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jeremy Roenick.
The all-star center, who ranks third in career goal scoring among American-born players, is indisputably one of the most colorful personalities to grace the NHL in the last two decades. Today, you can see Roenick this season as an analyst on NBC when the “NHL on NBC” returns in the winter. Roenick, who spent more than 18 seasons in the NHL has been teammates with his fair share of goofy goaltenders along the way.
Hockeybuzz Magazine recently caught up with Roenick to ask him to pick the three craziest goalies he has shared uniforms with:
1. Ed Belfour
“Eddie was just total, flat out nuts,” said Roenick. “He had to have everything perfect every single game. You couldn’t touch his stick. If the trainers didn’t have his gum in the perfect place or his drinks in the perfect place or if it wasn’t there or if they would have forgot something, he would have broken up the locker room.”
Roenick recalls one incident in particular during his Blackhawks days involving Belfour and former Hawks defenseman Dave Manson. During practice drills one morning, the hard-shooting Manson accidentally struck Belfour in the head with a slap shot. Belfour cursed and then plotted his revenge. Later, the goalie found an opportune moment to get even against his much larger, tough-guy teammate.
Laughed Roenick, “Eddie skated all the way out to half the red line and, right when Dave received a pass and he was turning up ice, Eddie just laid a crunching hit on him.”
Blackhawks head coach Mike Keenan was much less amused than the Chicago players. But he also understood that getting the last laugh was key to what made his hyper-competitive and volatile goaltender tick.
2. Robert Esche
“He was just a crazy man,” said Roenick. “He was wild and liked to have fun; he was the locker room clown. Eschey just lived life on the edge. He could probably put down two to three cases of beer before you could put down a six-pack. He’s just one of the guys who loves being with the boys and loves enjoying his life.”
Above all, Esche was a competitor of Belfour-like proportions. Depending on whether his team won or lost, he could exhibit very different postgame personalities. Roenick and his other teammates knew to leave Esche alone after a loss. After losses, Esche looked either like he’d lost his best friend or like he was about to go on a rampage. Sometimes he’d sit at his locker, head down, barely speaking above a whisper. Other times, when he was angry at himself or the officials, he’d glower with steely blue eyes and speak through gritted teeth. After wins, however, the Utica, NY native was usually loud and boisterous, standing at his locker with chaw in his mouth, trading off-color jokes with teammates, commenting on the musical selection playing in the room and filling reporters’ tape recorders and notebooks with quotes.
After Esche left the NHL to play in the KHL, he reevaluated his off-ice life. While still a fierce competitor on the ice, he found religion and quit drinking, devoting himself to being a family man. He still likes to have a good time and enjoy life, but he does so in a different way.
3. Jacques Cloutier
“He was without a doubt the biggest clown in life. He was always making fun of guys, always doing impersonations; he was really small [5-foot-7], and he had that French-Canadian accent. He would always make everybody laugh,” said Roenick of his former Chicago teammate.
After a decade-long NHL career primarily spent as a backup goaltender with the Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques, Cloutier turned to coaching. After a two-season stint with the Cornwall Aces (the Nordiques’ AHL affiliate), Cloutier joined the NHL team as an assistant after it relocated from Quebec City to Colorado. Cloutier remained with the Avalanche as an assistant coach from 1996-97 until the 2008-09 season.
Honorable mention: Sean Burke
Roenick played with Burke in both Phoenix and Philadelphia. While Burke was a fierce competitor in his own right, what JR remembers most is the goalie’s penchant for playing practical jokes. Burke was not quite as volatile as Belfour or Esche, but he could be plenty quirky in his own right.
On the flip side, there’s one goaltender with whom Roenick played about whom the retired forward holds few, if any, positive memories. According to JR, ex-Flyers teammate Roman Cechmanek was unpredictable and goofy, but for all the wrong reasons.