This season the NHL has had three very different situations play out when it comes to the retirement of notable players. Each of
Martin Brodeur, and
Evgeni Nabokov had called it quits, but each in different ways. Alfredsson signed a one-day free agent deal with the Senators to retire in the city that he called home for so many years, while Brodeur retired a Blue after signing a deal in St. Louis as a free agent after
Brian Elliott went down with an injury. Then there’s Nabokov. The long-time San Jose Sharks goaltender was traded back to San Jose on Monday following a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a move that will allow the 39-year-old to hang them up in the place he had the best years of his career. Many times, however, players aren’t allowed to ride off into the sunset the way that Alfredsson and Nabokov had. So, like Brodeur, these are 10 players that have retired in cities you wouldn’t expect:
10. Olaf Kolzig, Toronto Maple Leafs Kolzig is a Washington Capitals icon. For years, he was the team’s last line of defense, making his name during one of the most incredible playoff goaltending performances of the ‘90s when he posted a .941 save percentage and 4 shutouts in 21 games en route to the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals would lose in four straight to the Detroit Red Wings, but Kolzig’s performance cemented his legacy with the team. After 15 seasons as a Capital, Kolzig signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but after an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, he was dealt to the Maple Leafs in a package for defenseman
Richard Petiot. He would never suit up for the Maple Leafs, but technically spent the last part of his final season as a member of the organization.
9. Ron Francis, Toronto Maple Leafs The present-day Carolina Hurricanes GM ended his career playing in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs loaded up for a Stanley Cup run in 2003-04 and acquired Francis from the Hurricanes. During his career, Francis spent 16 seasons in the Hartford/Carolina organization and currently stands as the fourth highest scorer in league history. Many players have been dealt at the deadline as rentals, but it’s always weird to see a veteran with such a storied career end his playing days in a city they’ve never played in before. Francis, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native, presumably loved the opportunity to play out his final days close to home, however.
8. Mike Modano, Detroit Red Wings Modano is the Dallas Stars career leader in games played, points, goals, assists, power play goals, short-handed goals, game-winning goals, shots, and hat tricks. He is inarguably the greatest Dallas Star of all-time. And he ended his career by playing 40 games and scoring 5 goals and 15 points as a Detroit Red Wing. Talk about an unfitting end to his career. The ending was even more unceremonious for Modano because in his final season missed more than half the season with an injury. A Livonia, Mich., native, the idea was for Modano to play his final year close to home as a nod to the city and the team he grew up watching. Plainly speaking, it didn’t work out. Modano signed a one-day deal with the Stars, but his final games were played with the Wings.
7. Guy Lafleur, Quebec Nordiques Technically, Lafleur first retired as a Montreal Canadien in 1985, but his last hoorah ended with ‘The Flower’ playing for the rival Quebec Nordiques. Lafleur came out of retirement four seasons after hanging up his skates and went on to post 18 goals and 45 points in 67 games for the New York Rangers. Lafleur ended up back in his home province after playing one season with New York. In 98 games with the Nordiques spread over two seasons, the Hall of Famer scored 24 goals and 62 points. Lafleur’s comeback lasted just three seasons, and he hung his skates up for good as a member of the Canadiens provincial rival, the Quebec Nordiques. He went on to work in the Nordiques front office.
6. Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks Sundin ended up in Vancouver as a way for the longtime Toronto Maple Leafs captain to have a shot at the Stanley Cup. After becoming a free agent before the 2008-09 season, Sundin contemplated retiring from the game as a Maple Leaf, but decided to give it one more shot as a member of the Canucks. He didn’t begin the season in Vancouver, but joined the team by December and finished the season with 9 goals and 28 points in 41 games. In the playoffs, he would add another eight points in eight games, but the Canucks would be defeated in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks. Before the 2009-10 campaign began, Sundin announced his retirement after playing his final games with the Canucks.
5. Brian Leetch, Boston Bruins From 1987-88 until 2003-04, a span of 17 seasons, Leetch was a fixture on the New York Rangers blueline. He won the Calder Trophy, Norris Trophy (twice), helped the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup and picked up Conn Smythe Trophy honors for his play during the postseason. Six times he was voted the New York Rangers team MVP. In 2003-04, he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for another shot at a Stanley Cup. Leetch’s career didn’t end in Toronto, though. After playing 15 games with the Leafs and recording two goals and 15 points and another eight points in 13 playoff games, Leetch still had some gas left in the tank. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Leetch was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal by the Bruins and finished his playing days in black and gold, racking up five goals and 32 points in 61 games.
4. Chris Chelios, Atlanta Thrashers Chelios is one of the greatest American born players to ever play in the NHL, but his career ended in bizarre fashion with him spending nearly an entire season in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves before playing out the remainder of the campaign with the Atlanta Thrashers. Technically, Chelios’ final game was played as a member of the Wolves, but the Thrashers jersey was the last NHL sweater he wore. His final NHL games were enough to put him over 1,650 for his career and he currently sits fourth on the all-time games played list. Chelios – who had spent nine seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, nine with the Chicago Blackhawks and six with the Montreal Canadiens – retired three months after the Wolves’ were ousted from the Calder Cup playoffs.
3. Ray Bourque, Colorado Avalanche To this day, there are few retired jerseys that seem as out of place as Bourque’s famous 77 in Colorado. Bourque played just 94 games in Colorado, but won his first Stanley Cup in 2000-01 as a member of the team. The legendary Boston Bruins rearguard was sent to Colorado during the 1999-00 season along with
Dave Andreychuk in exchange for
Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier,
Sammy Pahlsson and a first-round pick. Before shipping out of Boston, Bourque had played 21 seasons with the Bruins and, upon winning the Cup with the Avalanche, had his own parade in Boston to celebrate with the city that had embraced him when he broke into the league as an 18-year-old. After winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, Bourque retired.
2. Gordie Howe, Hartford Whalers Howe, like Lafleur, was a legend who came out of retirement. After a brilliant 25-year career with the Detroit Red Wings, Mr. Hockey took one year off before joining the WHA’s Houston Aeros to play alongside his sons Marty and Mark. He would follow his sons to the New England Whalers in 1977-78 and, when the NHL absorbed the team before the 1979-80 season, Howe skated as a member of the Hartford Whalers. In his final season, Howe scored 15 goals and 41 points in 80 games and took part in the All-Star Game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and received a raucous ovation from the Detroit crowd when his name was announced. All but 80 of his 1,767 career NHL games were played as a member of the Red Wings, yet he retired a Hartford Whaler following the 1979-80 season.
1. Bobby Orr, Chicago Blackhawks Orr’s move to Chicago has become infamous due to the dealings of Alan Eagleson. Eagleson, Orr’s agent at the time, was offered a deal with the Boston Bruins that would have netted Orr over $1 million and a stake of nearly 19 percent in the team. Orr was never told about the offer by Eagleson and, in turn, the moved on to the Chicago Black Hawks, who offered Orr a five-year deal worth $3 million to be paid over 30 years. Over the next three seasons, Orr, the greatest defenseman to ever play the game, played in only 26 games and scored six goals and 27 points. He would retire in 1978-79 and to this day holds the record for most points by a defenseman in a single season with 139 in 1970-71. Much like Bourque’s jersey hanging from the rafters in Colorado, the image of Bobby Orr in a Chicago Black Hawks jersey is one of the oddest things for hockey fans to see.