Zetterberg walking away while he still can
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.”
A degenerative back issue is causing Henrik Zetterberg to stop playing.