Red Wings star Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg calls it a ca­reer


DETROIT — Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg knew some­thing wasn’t right with his back last Jan­uary when he stopped prac­tic­ing. De­spite the aches and pains, he did not miss a game all sea­son for the Detroit Red Wings.

When Zet­ter­berg laced up his skates for the fi­nal game of the reg­u­lar sea­son, he thought that might be the fi­nale of his ca­reer. He held out hope over the sum­mer his ca­reer could re­sume and was still cling­ing to that when he met with a doc­tor last week.

“Got the fi­nal re­sult and noth­ing re­ally had changed,” Zet­ter­berg told re­porters Fri­day in Tra­verse City, Mich. “So, that’s kind of when it kicked in.”

The 37-year-old Zet­ter­berg, who won the Conn Smythe Tro­phy as the top player in the post-sea­son when the Red Wings hoisted the Stan­ley Cup in 2008, is call­ing it a ca­reer. The sk­il­ful, smooth-skat­ing Swede is a mem­ber of a se­lect group of play­ers that has won a Stan­ley Cup, world cham­pi­onship and Olympic gold.

And now he is done, an­other blow for a proud fran­chise that has strug­gled in re­cent years.

“Ob­vi­ously, it is emo­tional,” Zet­ter­berg said. “It’s been 15 years here. Even though I knew I was on my last cou­ple years, I wish that I could have played a lit­tle bit longer.”

Zet­ter­berg will go on long-term in­jured re­serve with three years left on his 12-year, us$73 mil­lion con­tract. He will con­tinue to be paid and the team will get some $6 mil­lion in salary cap re­lief.

“He’s got a de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion in his back,” Red Wings gen­eral man­ager Ken 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.”

Hol­land called Zet­ter­berg one of the best play­ers in the long his­tory of the Red Wings and it’s hard to ar­gue with that. Zet­ter­berg had 337 goals and 960 ca­reer points and reg­u­larly was a can­di­date for the Selke Tro­phy hon­our­ing the NHL’S best de­fen­sive for­ward.

He was also a steal: Detroit selected Zet­ter­berg with the No. 210 pick over­all nearly two decades ago.


Detroit Red Wings’ Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg speaks to the me­dia at Red Wings train­ing camp. A de­gen­er­a­tive back is­sue is caus­ing the 37-year-old Zet­ter­berg to stop play­ing. Zet­ter­berg is not go­ing to of­fi­cially re­tire, of course; that would mean for­feit­ing the re­main­ing $5.35M owed to him through the 2020-21 sea­son.

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