In an interview with a Czech newspaper, Milan Hejduk confirmed what we all knew: the 2012-2013 season was his last in professional hockey. Nonetheless, it's still a sad moment in Avalanche country.
Despite wanting to announce his retirement at the end of the season, his agent, Jiri Crha, encouraged him to wait and see what kind of offers might come his way. Certainly, he could have played in his home country or Russia, but Hejduk didn't want to move his family. So, like many suspected, it was the Avalanche or nothing for him.
He admitted that he felt old last season, that his heart was there but his body wasn't. He knew that his health should be valued and that taking pain killers constantly is no way to live life. Moreover, he enjoys the time he gets to spend with his wife and children. He says that the lockout showed him how good it could be to wake up in the morning and drive the kids to school, rather than flying in late after a game and not getting to see them.
He doesn't seem to regret the decision, nor really miss hockey. He's on the ice regularly as a coach and mentor to his children. And ski season is starting; he says he's not good, but being the Hejduk we all know and love, his humility probably doesn't do his skill justice.
Will his jersey be lifted to the rafters? That's a long discussion worth its own post, but it's hard to argue against 1,020 games all in an Avs sweater, a captaincy, 805 points (375 g/430a), 20+ goals in 11 consecutive seasons, franchise leader in overtime goals, second in game-winning goals, third in power-play goals, and a little thing we like to call the Stanley Cup. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
We wish you well, Duke. You'll forever be a fan favorite, and you will be missed.
Hejduk and the Avalanche will have an official press conference at as yet undetermined date.