NEW YORK — Brendan Shanahan is retiring from the NHL after 21 seasons and an almost certain Hall of Fame career.
The 40-year-old forward announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t play again. After going through training camp with the New Jersey Devils, the team he spent his final season with, he and the club mutually parted unexpectedly shortly before opening night of the season.
“I would like to thank my family and all of the friends who have helped me achieve and maintain my childhood dream of playing in the National Hockey League,” Shanahan said in a statement released by the NHL. “While I always dreamed of playing in the NHL, I can’t honestly say that I would have ever imagined that I’d be this fortunate and blessed. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has helped me fulfil this dream.”
Shanahan, who scored 656 career goals, decided to leave the Devils in October one day after he was told there was no spot for him on New Jersey’s top three lines.
He has not played this season.
Shanahan ranks 11th on the league’s career goals list and is the only player with 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes. The eight-time all-star also played for St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit and the New York Rangers. He won three Stanley Cup titles with Detroit.
“He’s the best,” said Rangers forward Sean Avery, a teammate of Shanahan’s with New York and Detroit.
Now that his playing days are done, Shanahan could be a fit for the NHL Players’ Association, which is in a state of flux following the firing of executive director Paul Kelly and the resignations of several union officials.
Kelly was dismissed during a meeting in August, and his interim replacement Ian Penny is also gone along with the eight-member advisory board. Interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove stepped down last week, citing the inability to perform his duties as the reason. Donald Fehr, the outgoing executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has been appointed to assist the NHLPA in its search for an executive director.
Shanahan conducted a summit during the NHL’s 2004-05 lockout, and that gathering of people from all aspects of hockey produced several suggestions that led to rules changes after a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.
“Maybe he can help us out with our NHLPA situation. Maybe he will be our new executive director,” said Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette, the team’s player representative. “Shanny is a leader through and through, so his leadership will be valuable in any capacity. He is either going to be a general manager or he could work for the NHLPA.
“He could do a million things that would influence hockey. He will do something great in hockey, you’ll see.”
The left-winger rejoined the Devils last season after the Rangers declined to offer him a deal to return to New York for a third year. Shanahan went back to New Jersey, the team that selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 1987 draft, and agreed to a deal in mid-January.
He played his first game on Jan. 19 and scored in his debut at Nashville. Shanahan had six goals in 34 games last season, and added a goal and two assists in the Devils’ first-round, seven-game playoff loss to Carolina. Shanahan signed a new US$1-million contract with New Jersey during the off-season.
“I didn’t think he was going to retire,” Valiquette said. “I thought he was going to come back and play still. He would’ve contributed well to New Jersey had that situation worked out.
“A number of teams were looking at him and I am sure he had options, so I am surprised that he is not playing.”
Shanahan recorded 1,354 points and 2,489 penalty minutes in 1,524 NHL games.
“Great player and a great pro,” former Rangers coach Tom Renney told The Associated Press in an email. “Huge insight on the game, and very helpful in the player/coach role. I saw him as a superior leader who cared more about winning than anything else, but took great pride in helping young players grow.
“The game is better for having had Brendan in it and will continue to (be) as long as he stays involved.”