Not every player enjoys a standing ovation at the end of their final game. As a matter of fact, more often than not, NHLers leave the game quietly with most people not knowing they ever left. Some are aware that it would be their last game, while others are forced out of the league because of young talent emerging behind them.
Today, the game is an entirely different animal. The days of Western teams dominating with their big size and physical play seems to be slowly fading. Instead, the power has shifted towards the East with speed and skill becoming the dominant traits teams look for. This was well documented during the Stanley Cup Finals as the Pens skated circles around the Sharks on route to their Cup victory. With this in mind, many of the bigger players have been forced out of the league sooner than they anticipated.
In this article, we’ll feature an array of talent that recently retired for different reasons. Some are enforcers that just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the game while others left on a quiet note after a lengthy career in the league. What all these players have in common is how quietly they recently left the game, with most fans not even knowing they retired. With that said, we now present to you a list of 15 NHL players you didn’t realize are retired. Enjoy!
15. Cody Hodgson
Drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, the team was excited to add the sniper to the mix. Cody had one heck of an OHL run with the Brampton Battalion becoming a 40 goal player in two of his three seasons with the team.
Nobody could have predicted that he would be out of the league by the age of 26. At this point, most expected Hodgson to be entering the prime, but that just wasn’t the case. After the Canucks traded Hodgson, he would go on to put up marginal numbers with Buffalo and Nashville (except for the 13-14 season, scoring 20 goals with the Sabres). On July 1st, the Preds opted against renewing Cody’s deal and he would eventually announce his surprising retirement this past October.
14. Paul Gaustad
Selected 220th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft, Paul Gaustad exceeded expectations and had quite the career, playing the role of an agitator/checking center. He did extremely well in his position and was rewarded for it by the Sabres, signing his biggest deal in 2008, staying on board with the club on a four-year deal worth $9.2 million. He stayed till the 2011-12 season when he was finally shipped off to Nashville, the second and final team he’d play for in his career.
His role with the Preds was quite similar, although his playtime decreased significantly and his wheels had gotten slower from his days with the Sabres. Today, the league is a young man’s game with players like Paul slowly becoming obsolete. This likely had an impact on his decision to call it quits after 12 seasons. He announced his retirement via Instagram.
13. Louis Leblanc
Selected 18th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, the pick was a dream come true for the Pointe-Claire, Quebec native. That would be the highest point of his career sadly, as the former Hab struggled to fit in with the team and was eventually dealt to the Ducks, which saw him continue to struggle. In 2015, Leblanc would give it one last try, signing a deal with the New York Islanders. Again, his contributions weren’t good enough to stay on the main roster and he was sent down to the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Louis would ask for a release from the team and proceeded to play overseas in the KHL with HC Slovan Bratislava.
12. Mattias Ohlund
Mattias Ohlund enjoyed a quietly successful NHL career which was also quite historical. The former Canucks blueliner leads the team as their all-time leading goal and point scorer among defensemen in team history. Not only could this d-man bring it offensively but he was just as strong defensively, known for some of the biggest hits during his time. When Ohlund was around, players made sure to keep their heads up.
His career was split by two teams playing with the Canucks and Lightning. Matt’s run with Tampa ended on a bitter note as the defenseman began to pile up injuries from years of shot blocking and playing several minutes per night. A reoccurring knee injury put him out for the 2011-12 season and he wouldn’t play a single game from then on. He was on the injured reserve list since 2011 and his contract finally expired this year, allowing the player to officially call it quits at the age of 40.
11. Curtis Glencross
Joining the NHL as an undrafted player, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Curtis Glencross to stay in the league. To his credit, the guy was a work horse and gave it his all during his stint as an NHLer.
After several years in the AHL, Curtis finally made an impact as a Flame in 2010-11, netting 24 goals. This would earn the forward his biggest NHL contract of his career, as he re-signed with the Flames on a four-year deal worth $10.2 million. He’d follow up his contract signing with a career high 26 goal campaign. Unfortunately, following that career season, injuries would take over and he was never the same.
10. Eric Nystrom
Taken 10th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2002, the team selected Eric Nystrom based on his leadership during his stint in the CCHA as a part of the Michigan Wolverines.
His university years were statistically the best of his entire career. Eric’s stint as a Flame was different to what most expected, as he became the team’s third line checker, a role he would ultimately keep throughout his career.
Nystrom was as a role player who played for several different teams, joining the Wild, Stars and Predators as his last stop. This past June, the Preds put Eric on waivers and opted to buyout the final year of his contract. He would attend a pro tryout with the Blues in September, but ultimately fell short. He announced his retirement at the age of 33.
9. Jason LaBarbera
We get out first goalie on this list, as long time NHL backup Jason “LaBarbs” LaBarbera decided to finally hang em’ up after a long NHL career. Drafted by New York in 1998, the goalie became a backup throughout his career, playing for several teams. which included the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks andddd drum roll please….the Anaheim Ducks. We applaud LaBarbs for his years of service as a pretty solid number two and it’s remarkable that the guy managed to stay relevant in the league for so long.
8. Tim Jackman
Like we discussed earlier in the article, some roles and player types are slowly becoming extinct. Tim Jackman’s role as an enforcer is one of those positions that seems to be slowly fading away from the league. Tim was a hard-nosed, heart and soul type player who was generally a checker and enforcer throughout his career. Speed, passing and shooting wasn’t a part of his game. His career high was scoring ten goals and his second best year saw him score five goals.
Today, most teams are looking for skill and speed. It seems like the enforcer role has been replaced with the speedy, young checker role today. This caused Jackman to spend the majority of last year down in the AHL. Just this year, Tim ended his contract and retired from the game. At the age of 35, Jackman took the admirable decision to head back to school, completing his Education degree.
7. Raffi Torres
Looking at his body of work throughout the years, it’s hard to believe Raffi Torres was drafted fifth overall in the 2000 NHL draft. At the time, the Islanders were ecstatic about the selection, as Torres enjoyed some formidable campaigns with the Brampton Battalion during his OHL days.
He was only able to replicate that type of offense with the Oilers in the 2005-06 season. scoring a career high 27 goals. For the rest of his career, he bounced around the league and made headlines for questionable head shots that the league are desperately trying to eliminate from the game. The NHL had enough of Torres and his hits, as the league would opt to suspend Raffi for 41 games in 2015 after a brutal pre-season hit to the head on Ducks’ forward Jakob Silverberg. The Sharks would ship him off to Toronto and he’d make one last attempt this year joining the Canes’ on a PTO. He did not make the team and announced his retirement earlier this month on November 5th.
6. Ruslan Fedotenko
This one goes in the “what the hell, he was still playing?” category. Well, the veteran was actually still playing during the 2015-16 season, participating in 16 games with the Iowa Wild. The veteran signed a one year deal with the AHL team last year and officially decided to hang them up at the age of 37 this past October.
Looking back at his career, it’s certainly noteworthy that the forward won two Stanley Cups with both Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. His role with the teams was different, but he was a key piece in both cup wins, especially with the Lightning scoring several clutch goals during the team’s run towards the Stanley Cup. His best year took place in 2005-06 when the player scored 26 goals.
5. Mike Komisarek
In 2001, the Habs were very excited to select d-man Mike Komisarek seventh overall in the draft. Looking at his body of work from his days with the University of Michigan, several scouts deemed that he was NHL ready.
The scouts were on the money, as Mike came in and offered the Habs a reliable face at the back. Montreal fans were invested in the player as he stood up for teammates and gave it his all during his time with the bleu, blanc et rouge.
Led by Brian Burke (of course), the Leafs would steal the d-man from the Habs, signing him to a five year deal worth $4.5 million per season. After he inked the deal, Komisarek was never the same again and would end up clearing waivers in 2013, joining the Marlies down in the AHL. In 2013/14, he’d have a short stint in Carolina, playing 32 games and collecting four assists.
In September of 2014, Komi gave it one last shot, trying out for the Devils. The Devils opted against offering the big defenseman a contract and he’d announce his retirement shortly after. Mike would go on to resume his education at the University of Michigan and join legendary head coach Red Berenson as an undergrad assistant coach.
4. George Parros
Who can forget the epic mustache that appeared with the LA Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. Heck, the mustache even won a Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Ducks.
All mustaches’ aside, Parros was a brawler throughout his NHL career. During his peak, George was one of the most feared enforcers in the league, as many players were reluctant to drop the gloves with the 6’5″ fighter.
As we discussed with some other players on this list, the enforcer role has started to vanish and Parros was another player to be effected by it. He barely played in his final two seasons and quietly announced his retirement in December of 2014, when he had no contract offers on the table.
3. Shawn Horcoff
Nearing his 40s, Shawn Horcoff was still capable of giving a team a boost with his veteran leadership skills. Last season, the Ducks signed the vet to a one-year deal, but it was quite rocky. In January, he was suspended a total of 20 games by the league for using a banned substance, which would derail his momentum with the club.
After a lengthy career spent predominantly as an Oiler, Horcoff made the surprising decision to announce his retirement from the game at the age of 37. His decision to do so was facilitated by the Detroit Red Wings, as the former NHLer joined the club as the Director of Player Development. Look for his role to only increase behind the scenes as the years move along, Horcoff was a smart hockey mind and that will likely pay dividends during his new career.
2. John Scott
After making headlines throughout 2016, John Scott quietly left the game by announcing his retirement in November.
Looking at his career totals, which show that he scored five goals in his entire career, it’s obvious that goal-scoring wasn’t his thing. Scott was an imposing figure and one of the very best enforcers of his time. Given his 6’8″ frame, many players hesitated to the drop the gloves with the big boy who made his battles look rather easy every time because of strength and reach advantage.
His career took a bizarre twist in 2016 when NHL fans voted Scott into the All-Star Game. The NHL tried their very best to talk him out of it, but he instead opted to go and made the right decision by adding some interest to the lackluster event. This season, the NHL has changed the fan voting stipulations, making it impossible for another type of situation to occur. BOOORINNGGG.
1. Scott Gomez
To end this list, we’ll look at the curious case of Scott Gomez, who had a career that featured the highest of highs early on followed by the lowest of lows towards the end.
He peaked immediately for the Devils in 2000, aiding the team to their second Stanley Cup along with a Calder Trophy Award as the Rookie of the Year. His time with New Jersey was great, but it all came crashing down when he signed a lucrative deal with the New York Rangers.
New York signed the center to a $51 million dollar deal that they’d soon regret, as Scott slightly declined after a solid first year with the team. In a shocking twist, the Rangers were somehow able to deal away his contract as he was picked up the Montreal Canadiens, in a move that only made things worse as his struggles continued.
After leaving Montreal, he bounced around to several teams, which included the Sharks, Panthers, Devils, Blues and a final stop with the Sens last year. Gomez had a brilliant interview with The Player’s Tribune shedding a light on the trials and tribulations of his career, which is a must read for any hockey fan.
In late August, at the age of 36, Gomez quietly retired from the game.
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