Defenceman Henrik Tallinder probably wouldn't mind finishing his career like Derek Jeter, but most pro athletes don't get to retire the way they want to.
Their careers wind down in a quieter way.
Tallinder, a 35-year-old free agent, suffered a separated shoulder while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs on a professional tryout Friday night. Tallinder sustained the injury in a game against his former team, the Buffalo Sabres, when ex-teammate Mike Weber slammed him into the boards and fell on top of him.
Tallinder’s injury could put him out of contention for a Leafs roster spot, and may kill his last shot at an NHL contract before he retires.
It would be a less-than-auspicious end to Tallinder’s 12-season career, which began with the Buffalo Sabres 678 NHL games ago. Tallinder was drafted by the Sabres and spent nine seasons in Buffalo, including last year. But this season he was trying to crack the rival Maple Leafs’ roster, and he sustained his shoulder injury as a visitor in the Sabres’ arena.
If this is the end for Tallinder, you’ve got to feel for the guy.
He didn’t make superstar money. He didn’t get a standing ovation when he left the ice on Friday. And you can’t spell “RE2PECT” with Tallinder’s #20 jersey.
But these are the stories you hear this time of year, because very few athletes get to retire on their own terms. For every Derek Jeter walk-off hit at Yankee Stadium, there are a dozen careers that end with a bad bump or muscle sprain like Tallinder’s injury.
Even superstars have trouble walking off into the sunset. Look at Martin Brodeur, who had his last hurrah as a New Jersey Devil last season, but who still believes he can be a starter in the NHL.
Will he be humbled into taking a backup role for a season, or will he simply retire because he can't get a contract?
We’ll know soon enough.
And we’ll know Tallinder’s diagnosis soon enough, too.
He may play again. Or he may join a handful of other veterans on PTOs this September who won’t get to retire on their own terms.