Sorry I’m a few days late on this, but I did not read about it until this afternoon…
I have long said that the most important part of a star player’s career is not the stats—nor is it the paycheck, the amount of championship rings, or any material item such as that. The most important part is knowing when to retire, recognizing when the ship is going to sail and not hanging around so long that you miss it. Two days ago, Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Brian Rafalski announced his retirement. The 38 year-old defenseman basically stunned the hockey world with his bit of news, because just like that other veteran defenseman playing in Motown, he showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Since signing with Detroit in 2007, Rafalski has put up 55, 59, 42, and 48 points respectively, all while in his mid-thirties, with the game growing faster every single season. What is even more shocking about this decision is the fact that he still had one year remaining on a contract that would have paid him $6 million more this coming season. Rafalski cites that he wants a deeper commitment to his family and those close to him for why he is leaving. One cannot help but respect that reasoning, because I do not think you would see it in any other sport. Hats off to Brian Rafalski for putting money aside and going with his gut instinct on this—if only more players followed in his footsteps.
The Red Wings will now be down a puck-moving defenseman, which would make me think that ole Niklas Lidstrom will be back for a 20th season in the National Hockey League. The 41 year-old (it must be the water out there in Detroit) has seemed to get better with age, and certainly would not be a detriment to his team by sticking around another season, but I do not watch the Red Wings often enough to comment further.
So once again, kudos and congratulations to Mr. Rafalski for an outstanding career that spanned 11 seasons, and saw him put up 79 goals and 436 assists in 833 games. He also won three Stanley Cups (two with the New Jersey Devils), and played in the finals five times. Enjoy your retirement!