An official retirement announcement will have to wait, but New Jersey Devils left winger Ryane Clowe will never play in the NHL again.
In an announcement made by Clowe and Devils GM Ray Shero Friday, the 32-year-old said that while he feels well enough to suit up, doctors have advised against him returning to the ice to continue his professional career.
“Based on the recommendation of doctors and the latest incident on Nov. 6 and the result of the injuries and the concussions, he's going to be unable to play hockey now or hockey in the future,” Shero said, via NorthJersey.com’s Tom Gulitti. “For me getting to know Ryane over the last two months in particular, he's a proud player, he's a proud person. This has been very difficult for him and knowing he's given this a lot of time to try to play and seeing the doctors to try to get back to play, the conclusion that he's unable to play hockey now or in the future.”
In the span of roughly 19 months, Clowe suffered four separate head injuries which sidelined him for a combined 119 games. Clowe’s trouble with head injuries began in April 2013, shortly after being acquired by the New York Rangers from the San Jose Sharks. After his initial injury, he suffered another blow to the head in May 2013 that kept him out the remainder of the post-season.
In the 2013 off-season, Clowe signed a five-year, $24.25-million contract with the Devils, but suffered another head injury shortly after the season began in October that caused him to miss 32 games. Upon his return, he proceeded to play three months without incident before another head injury in April 2014 forced him to miss seven games.
Clowe once again returned to the Devils to begin the 2014-15 campaign, but in November he was injured on a seemingly innocuous jolt early in a game against the St. Louis Blues. He missed the following 69 games and his career remained in question until Friday’s announcement.
“Medically I'm not cleared to play,” Clowe told Gulitti. “I've seen various professionals, I guess, over the last couple of years when you go back, but (particularly) since the last injury. I tried to work my way back. Of course, I want to play again, but it just didn't work out and I wasn't able to play again. Sure, you want to. It's just not possible and it won't be possible moving forward.”
With Clowe not officially retiring, he’ll remain on either the IR or LTIR, Shero told Gulitti.
“Ryane's got three years left on his playing contract, which is, obviously, honored by the club, but he is unable to play now and unable to play in the future,” Shero told Gulitti.
Over his career, Clowe scored 112 goals and 309 points in 491 games. Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the sixth round, 175th overall in 2001, he rose to prominence as a grinding, in-your-face winger with a knack for finding the back of the net. His career-year came in 2011-12 when he scored 24 goals and 62 points — both career bests — with San Jose.
As for what Clowe’s future, he told Gulitti he plans to stay involved with the game, but is unsure in what capacity.