Zet­ter­berg walk­ing away while he still can

Waterloo Region Record - - Sports - HE­LENE ST. JAMES

TRA­VERSE CITY, MICH. — Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg looks back on his Detroit Red Wings ca­reer with pride and sat­is­fac­tion.

He looks for­ward to spend­ing more time with his wife and young son, and en­joy­ing a qual­ity of life that made con­tin­u­ing to play im­pos­si­ble.

As his team­mates be­gan the first day of train­ing camp, Zet­ter­berg stood in a cor­ner of a rink, ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion to step away. He seemed as re­lieved as he was wist­ful. He played 1,082 games, pro­duced 960 points, won a Stan­ley Cup, was named play­off MVP. In­ter­na­tion­ally, he won gold medals both at the Olympics and world cham­pi­onships.

“I didn’t see my­self last this long when I got drafted back in ’99,” Zet­ter­berg said. “I’ve been through all the good things, and some low things, dur­ing my ca­reer. Be­ing in one or­ga­ni­za­tion for the whole time, be­ing named the cap­tain for this or­ga­ni­za­tion, I think that’s some­thing spe­cial.

“It’s kind of sur­real stand­ing here and talk­ing about that, that I’m done play­ing. I’ve played with some great team­mates. Had some great teams through­out the years. In ’08, win­ning the Cup is prob­a­bly the high­light.”

Zet­ter­berg, who turns 38 on Oct. 9, last prac­tised in Jan­uary. Four years after he un­der­went back surgery, the wear and tear be­came too much. Zet­ter­berg pow­ered through play­ing all 82 games for a third sea­son in a row, but as the clock ticked on the last game of 2017-18, Zet­ter­berg paused.

“I thought it would be a pretty good chance it would be the last one,” Zet­ter­berg said.

Over the sum­mer, Zet­ter­berg rec­og­nized he could not train to the level needed to con­tinue his ca­reer. His last at­tempt at find­ing a way to keep play­ing came ear­lier this week when he saw Dr. Frank Cam­misa, the back spe­cial­ist who op­er­ated on Zet­ter­berg in 2014. Part of the de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion is sig­nif­i­cant arthri­tis. There is no surgery, no amount of time off that will help. To con­tinue play­ing would ac­cel­er­ate the de­gen­er­a­tion.

The advice was to stop play­ing, which Zet­ter­berg sus­pected.

“I got to know my body pretty well the last cou­ple years and I know when it’s bad and I don’t have that many more so­lu­tions to do with my back,” Zet­ter­berg said. “It’s time.”

By step­ping away now, the ex­pec­ta­tion is he can main­tain a good qual­ity of life.

“If I keep do­ing the right things, hope­fully I will feel pretty good,” Zet­ter­berg said. “When you have nerves in­volved, that’s kind of shut­ting down some of your mus­cles and that kind of gets iffy some­times when you are on the ice. But walk­ing around nor­mal life, I’m pretty de­cent.”

PAUL SAN­CYA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A de­gen­er­a­tive back is­sue is caus­ing Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg to stop play­ing.

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