Joel Ward has announced his retirement from professional hockey after playing 726 games in 11 seasons in the NHL.
The 39-year-old, who last played in the NHL in 2017-2018, made the news official in an article published on The Players Tribune Monday.
“I know I haven’t played in the past two years, but I’ve tried. I did. I wish I could go out a little bit different, “wrote Ward. “But, you know, just thinking about it – every 726 games – I have achieved something. Who am I to wish for more time? I got what I wanted. I’m one of the lucky ones. “
Never drafted, Ward played four years with the UPEI Panthers after graduating from the Ontario League. From there, he grinded for two years in the AHL before making his NHL debut two weeks after his 26th birthday. His first game was at Hockey Night in Canada with his Minnesota Wild against the Vancouver Canucks, and he played 726 with the Wild, Predators, Capitals and Sharks.
“Jacques Lemaire gave me the chance to start, with my mom and a family group in the stands. I had a shot at Roberto Luongo that night. That’s all I really remember. It was unreal, “Ward wrote, thinking back to his beginnings.
A powerful striker with a solid shot, Ward scored 133 goals and 304 points in his NHL career and added 52 points in 83 playoff games. He has never been so close to winning the Stanley Cup in 2016, when his Sharks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finals.
“I’m still watching the highlights of the 2016 Cup final. It always hurts. You don’t get over it, you live with it forever. But, as time goes by, I cherish it more and more, ”he writes. “I remember thinking during Game 1, for example,” It’s Sid, right there. Guy scored more goals in his sleep than in my entire career. But I won my right to be there, I know it. What a damn experience – for real, it was just incredibly fun. “
Ward wrote that his decision to retire was partly due to the arrival of his son, born a few months ago. Ward was able to share a moment with his son on the ice in San Jose in September and hopes to convey to him the work ethic he needed to reach the NHL.
“We’ll make sure he knows if you like something, keep chasing it,” Ward wrote. “Hunt and hunt and hunt. Until we become 726. “