Jeremy Roenick thrives as teacher at JR Hockey School

VERNON HILLS, Ill. - Class is in session at Glacier Ice Arena and Jeremy Roenick is all over the ice.

"Lot of mayhem," laughs the former Blackhawks superstar.

It's his third year as lead instructor at JR Hockey School and enrollment is up.

"We started with 40 kids the first year, just to get a dose to see how it would run. It was a success. Last year we had 100. Again, knocked it out of the park. So, this year we went to 150 kids."

He's not reciting stats. Roenick is hands on, calling students by name and going one on one every couple minutes.

"It's like herding cats sometimes with a lot of kids. But, they're very respectful. These kids are on the ice twice a day. The parents drop them off at 7:30 in the morning. Pick them up around 3:30 PM. We teach them a lot about the game of hockey. We teach them a lot about being respectful. We teach them a lot about listening."

You can hear it from the stands.

"Bend those knees. Bend those knees. Bend those knees. That's going to allow you to have stability. That's going to allow you to be able to turn harder. That's going to allow you, when someone comes close to you to bounce off of them."

One camper's attention drifted mid-lesson. But a quick helmet tap shows the importance of focus and respect.

"How you doing over there Kayden? You doing pretty good? Eye contact. Eyes, eyes, eyes," Roenick reinforces.

"I love how Jeremy is on the ice," explains Eric Palmer, who made the trip from Tampa Bay, Florida to continue his education at the JR Hockey School. "He's on the ice everyday helping me. It's worth coming up here."

But Roenick isn't alone.

"I've got about eight different coaches that are on the ice at one time, making sure each kid gets the attention that they need. I'm on the ice for eight hours a day, which is not great for the feet, but it's great for the mind.

"We have a lot of kids that can't afford the game. Can't afford to come to a camp like this. The sponsors help bring some kids in to introduce them to the best game in the world."

Some of the best prospects in the world are starting to come from right down the road.

"There's no question. In talking about some of the hockey hotbeds in the country - whether it's Detroit, Minnesota, Boston - Chicago is climbing that rank very quickly. There are couple teams here that have put the pressure on the Chicago Young Americans Organization, that's probably been one of the strongest organizations in Illinois for a long time, You're seeing some really great talent come out of here. You see Hartman, Hinostroza, Dzingel - the hockey is alive and well here."

A lot of new faces have flocked to the Blackhawks since year two of JR's Hockey School, which Roenick doesn't think is necessarily a bad thing.

"When you miss the playoffs two years in a row, you've got to make changes. Obviously they have a couple issues that they have to deal with. Getting Olli Maatta could be a very good thing. If he can stay healthy, if he can work on his footwork, I think he's got a good upside. I like getting Shaw back. I'm a big Shaw fan. He gives you character. He gives you grit. I'm excited to see what this Nylander is like. Obviously, he's a young kid, but they're talking very highly about him. He could be somebody that surprises the coaching staff.

"As much as I love Corey Crawford, with as much as he has been hurt last couple years with concussions, you never know what his health is going to be like from a day to day basis. I wish him to have a nice clean, injury-free season, but when you can get a guy that was on the Vezina ballot last year, had a year like Robin Lehner had, you fill a very, very big, important piece of your puzzle. I think that was a great move getting him here."

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.