Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome forced to retire at 31 due to back injury

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome missed the entire 2015-16 season due to a back injury, and the same ailment has forced him to retire at 31. Clitsome last played Jan. 3, 2015, and finishes his career with 15 goals and 71 points in 205 games.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome last suited up on Jan. 3, 2015, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Little did he know it would be the last time ever that he would do so.

Following that contest, a 5-1 Jets victory in which Clitsome would skate 20-plus minutes, he would be forced to go under the knife for back surgery. He missed the final 43 regular season contests, all four playoff games and then was placed on the injured reserve before the 2015-16 season began. Clitsome didn’t play a single game this past season, and Tuesday, the 31-year-old rearguard officially announced his retirement.

“It is with great regret, that today I announce my retirement from hockey due to a back injury,” said Clitsome in a release. “It’s tough when something unexpected, and out of your control, suddenly ends your career. Despite the circumstances, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream and play in the NHL. I am also very grateful for all the great people that I have met, and all the friendships that I have made playing hockey.”

The 2015-16 campaign was the final year of a three-year, $6.2-million deal Clitsome had signed with the Jets in July 2013, and the future for the Gloucester, Ont., native is unknown. The Jets didn’t announce that Clitsome would be taking on a position within the organization, though that could very well be an option moving forward.

Clitsome had a great career considering where he was drafted. In 2004, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Clitsome in the ninth round, 271st overall, after he had finished up a 13-goal, 39-point campaign with the CJHL’s Nepean Raiders. From there, Clitsome spent four seasons at the NCAA’s Clarkson University before making the jump to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.

READ ALSO:  Lightning’s Bishop steals show, ends series in what could be Datsyuk’s final game

He finally broke into the NHL during the 2009-10 season, playing 11 games for the Blue Jackets, followed by 31 games the following season and 51 in 2011-12 before he was waived mid-season and picked up by the Jets. In Winnipeg, Clitsome found a fit. Though he was forced to battle through injuries, Clitsome played in 112 games for the Jets, scoring six goal and 35 points while averaging 18:22 of ice time per game.

Clitsome’s best season came in 2011-12 when he split time with the Blue Jackets and Jets. Though he only averaged 17 minutes per game, he played a career-high 63 games and scored four goals and 17 points. He finishes his career with 15 goals and 71 points in 205 games. As of his retirement, only six players in NHL history drafted later than Clitsome put up more points than his 71.

“I would like to thank the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for drafting me and giving me an opportunity to start my professional career,” Clitsome said. “I would also like to thank the Winnipeg Jets organization for me treating me so well from day one. It truly was a special place to play and I’m proud to retire as a Jet.”