Bryce Salvador’s path to the NHL wasn’t an easy one, and after 13 seasons in the league the 39-year-old defenseman is prepared to call it a career.
Wednesday morning, Salvador made his retirement announcement via The Players Tribune, in a piece titled "'Til It's Gone."
In the piece, Salvador describes the symptoms of his multiple concussions which caused him to miss the entire 2010-11 campaign. After recounting the story of his struggles with a concussion and damage to his vestibular system -- which included his eyes not communicating with one another -- Salvador revealed that he was choosing to step away from the game.
"Today, I am retiring from the National Hockey League," Salvador wrote. "I achieved my goal of coming back so that my boys would be able to remember me as an NHL player, and now I am content to step away on my own terms. But I am not leaving hockey, and I am not leaving New Jersey or the Devils. This organization never stopped believing in me, even when I was spinning around in office chairs (to heal my vestibular system)."
Salvador was an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the veteran blueliner was coming off of a year in which he played only 15 games due to a lower body injury. That it comes one season after Salvador missed the final 10 games of the Devils season due to another lower body ailment likely means the miles are catching up to Salvador.
“Right now, there’s just so much going on in my life in terms of a lot of things, personal things with my family,” Salvador told The Record's Tom Gulitti in June. “So, I’m just going to see how things go and see where you are come August or September. I’m not putting any pressure on anything or anybody.”
The 14-year veteran was drafted in the sixth-round, 138th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1994, but Salvador didn’t actually make his NHL debut until six seasons later when he cracked the St. Louis Blues’ lineup in 2000-01. Once in the NHL, Salvador clung to his role with the Blues tightly.
For seven seasons, Salvador patrolled the Blues blueline before being dealt to the New Jersey Devils in February 2008. With the Devils, Salvador would post two of his most productive offensive seasons, scoring three goals and 16 points in 2008-09 — his career-high for points — and followed it up with four goals and 14 points the following season.
Salvador was named the captain of the Devils in January 2013 and held the honor for the past three seasons.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Salvador told NJ.com’s Rich Chere upon being named captain. “I think it’s a huge compliment from an organization like New Jersey with the success and the history they’ve had. For them to select me as their next captain is an honor. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to it.”
But during the shortened season, injuries once again shortened Salvador's seasons. Since 2012-13, a number of ailments have limited Salvador to only 94 games.
After thanking everyone who made his career possible, Salvador recounted the story of an NHL scout who told him he was, "too slow, too soft," to ever make it in the big league after he was drafted.
"Here I am, 786 regular season and 74 playoff games later, retiring as a captain. No matter what anybody says, they can’t take this away from me," Salvador wrote Wednesday. "I played in the freaking NHL."