Anaheim Ducks star center Ryan Getzlaf announced Tuesday that, after 17 NHL seasons, he would be retiring.
The time was coming for it sooner or later, and at age 38, there was nothing left for him to prove. Getzlaf doesn’t have a flashy legacy, but he is the best Ducks player in franchise history, and he does have a legacy as a winner on most teams he played for.
Getzlaf has incredible longevity – his rookie season of 2005-06 was the final season the Ducks were known as the Mighty Ducks– and he’s Anaheim’s all-time leader in games played (1,150) as well as assists (731). More importantly, he won a Stanley Cup in his second season in the league, leading the way for the Ducks with 10 assists and 17 points in 21 games. He won two gold medals for Canada at the Olympics. He won another gold medal for his homeland at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s 2003 World Junior Championship. And he was on the winning team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
The last few seasons haven’t been great for the Ducks, but most hockey players would kill to have Getzlaf’s resume. He never needed the adulation that would come with playing in a traditional hockey market. He was happy with Anaheim, and Anaheim was happy with him.
Getzlaf played a similar, no-fireworks, superb-defense kind of hockey. He simply went about his business, and he was excellent at it. Although he could score – he currently has 282 career goals – Getzlaf always preferred to be a playmaker rather than a play-finisher. He presently has 1,013 career points, in 1,150 games. Basically, he’s been a point-per-game performer, and that’s always impressive in the defense-minded NHL.
The question now is, will Getzlaf make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame? He may not make it in his first year of eligibility, but there are Hall-of-Famers who have fewer points than him. His consistency and longevity will be what is referenced if he does get enough votes from the HHOF selection committee. His lack of individual awards will work against him. Either way, Getzlaf will always be remembered by Ducks fans as a star who made the team better every day he was there.
Getzlaf was drafted 19th overall in 2003. That means 18 teams missed out on a leviathan and a player who thrived in the captain’s role the way Getzlaf did. He set the bar for his teams, and though the Ducks have struggled in recent years, Getzlaf never stopped being the cornerstone of Anaheim’s foundation. He was a phenom from the moment he stepped onto an NHL ice pad. He might not have been the very best player in the game, but there are countless NHLers you could say that about.
Year-in and year-out, you always knew what you were getting out of Getzlaf. At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, he’s been a bull physically for the Ducks, and the simple fact he played more than 1,000 games with that style is a credit to his determination and commitment to the sport. Playing in Anaheim may have hidden him from the hockey mainstream, but those who saw him knew how valuable he was.
The Ducks have 11 games left this year, including four home games. Anaheim fans should be cheering Getzlaf on every time he hops over the boards, showing their gratitude for a competitor who never took a night off. That is probably the best part of Getzlaf’s legacy. He had enough skill to get by on, but it was his work ethic that endeared him to teammates, coaches and fans.