Zetterberg ends 15-season career as one of Red Wings' greatest
Henrik Zetterberg: "Even though I knew I was on my last couple years, I wish that I could have played a little bit longer."
It’s official: Henrik Zetterberg’s playing career is over.
Zetterberg, 37, announced his retirement at a press conference Friday, the first day of the Red Wings' training camp at Traverse City’s Centre I.C.E Arena.
It had been widely speculated that Zetterberg would never play again after the news that he had not been able to train much all summer because of his chronic back problem, which he had surgically repaired in 2014.
Zetterberg held out hope that he would be able to return until he was examined by Dr. Frank Camissa, who performed the surgery, in New York last week. It was determined that the degenerative back problem will prevent Zetterberg from playing again.
"Obviously, it is emotional," Zetterberg said on www.mlive.com. "It's been 15 years here (in Detroit). Even though I knew I was on my last couple years, I wish that I could have played a little bit longer."
Zetterberg, who has been the Wings' captain since 2013, is fifth on Detroit’s all-time list in goals (337), assists (623) and points (960) in 1,082 games. He helped the Wings win the 2008 Stanley Cup while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
“In '08, winning the Cup probably is the highlight" of his career, Zetterberg said. "All the guys I played with through the years ... Had some special bonds with a lot of players."
Zetterberg, selected in the seventh round (210th overall) of the 1999 NHL draft, played in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons. But he was not able to practice because of his back the final three months of 2017-18. He finished his final season with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points.
"I've kind of been living this for a while," he said. "Starting in January (this) year, I knew something was not quite right. I found a way to play through that season ... In mid-summer we hoped it was going to get a little bit better, and it (didn't).
"I went to see Dr. Camissa last week and got the final result and nothing really had changed, so that's kind of when it kicked in."
Zetterberg’s best statistical season came during the Stanley Cup season of 2007-08 when he had 43 goals and 92 points in 75 games. For most of his career, he teamed with Pavel Datsyuk to give Detroit either a dynamic 1-2 punch at center or a devastation combination on the same line.
The Wings will have to go on without Zetterberg, their last star player from the four-Stanley Cup (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) “Hockeytown” era.
"I think he's one of the greatest Red Wing players in our history," general manager Ken Holland said.
Holland talked in depth about Zetterberg’s back issues.
"He's got a degenerative condition in his back," Holland said. "Part of the degenerative condition is significant arthritis. Nothing can be done, no back surgery, no rehab, no more time off is going to have any positive impact.
"Obviously, if he plays professional hockey, it's going to accelerate the degeneration, and if he does get a bad hit or something, then he's risking a significant back surgery. Henrik has decided that his quality of life is more important than taking the risk of back surgery."
Zetterberg has three years remaining on his contract at cap hit of $6.083 million. He'll be placed on long-term injured reserve, giving the club some cap relief.
Zetterberg is not sure what he and his wife, Emma, will do next, but they plan to remain in the Detroit area. Their son, Love, started school last week.
"Detroit Red Wings have been such a big part of our lives," he said. "We've been spending basically our grown-up life over here. We have an American son. But she has seen me go through what I've gone through. I think she's happy I don't have to do that, but in the same way also she knows I want to play and so she probably wanted me to play, too."
Holland said that Zetterberg’s retirement leaves a “massive” void.
"Somebody has to eat up all those minutes," Holland said. "It's not only those minutes. We're trying to go younger and you need role models and there's no better role model than Henrik Zetterberg. So, we know that we're losing a major player on and off the ice.
"With that loss comes opportunity and there's a tremendous opportunity in terms of ice time for some other people on our team and hopefully some young people are going to take full advantage."
Holland and coach Jeff Blashill will decide before the season whether to name a captain or go with three alternate captains this season.