I can still picture it vividly.
That afternoon on TV, I’d seen a drone shot of Broadway and the area surrounding Bridgestone Arena that showed all the people gathered for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. I gasped. How was there that many people there? And all to support us? It was almost incomprehensible.
I kept picturing that scene even as we gathered in the locker room for the game that night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I wasn’t the only one who’d seen the shots of all the fans; it was all we could talk about in the room. Before the playoffs even began, we, as a team, set goals we wanted to accomplish, even outside of winning the Cup. Right under that obvious one at the top of the list was to unite and inspire the city of Nashville. We put the list up in our room and looked at it each day.
But the scene outside blew us away. We couldn’t take credit for it or even claim it was what we expected. All of us were looking at each other and going, “holy cow, this is something we’ll never forget.”
The way the city was behind us was unbelievable, and that’s what makes the memory such a high – but also bittersweet. Can you imagine if we had a parade down Broadway?
It’s moments like that which I know I’ll miss. This job I’ve been able to have for a majority of my life is so much fun. To help create that entertainment and to see the joy we can bring to people is such a unique and exciting opportunity. I’ll miss my teammates, my coaches and the game itself.
This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but I know I’ve made the right one. I’ve decided to retire from the NHL.
I kept praying for peace about the next step in my life. A peace that said this is God’s will for your future. A peace that said whether or not this was the right time to walk away.
I don’t believe it came in a single instance or some aha moment, but as time passed, I gradually became certain that it was right for me to retire. I believe God gave me the ability to play hockey, and I was helped by dozens of individuals along the way, so it’s not just up to me on when it’s time to say goodbye.
Knowing we were so close to winning it all in June only makes it more difficult to leave it behind, but I do so with hope. Endings are always tough, but I believe when something ends, there are new beginnings, new opportunities and new things to be excited for, too.
I believe that this team, that this city, is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the biggest fan. No one will be happier than I will be to see it happen, because, these fans, they deserve it.
Closing a chapter like this – one that’s lasted 17 years – makes me think about the support I’ve received my whole life from my family, friends, even people I’ve never met that have prayed for me throughout my career. It’s impossible to thank every one of them, but I’ll try. I hope this letter shows some kind of gratitude to them, to the Ottawa Senators, to David Poile, who brought me to Nashville and put his faith in me, to the entire Nashville Predators organization, teammates, owners, coaches and trainers; the way they’ve treated me has always been with the utmost kindness.
I approached this season with the mindset that it could be my last, and now that it’s past, I’m looking forward to a future that includes a lot more time with my family. Things change when you have kids and you have a family. They’ve supported me without question, and now it’s my turn to return the favor.
A thank you here isn’t enough to say goodbye with, but all those memories, like the moments in the locker room before Game 6, cherishing those is what I hope will keep me, this team and the city intertwined forever.