Longtime NHL forward Joel Ward announced his retirement Monday, ending an 11-year career that started as an undrafted player.
Ward became known as one of the game’s most clutch playoff performers and said he relished the chance to be teammates with stars like Alex Ovechkin, Joe Thornton, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne during his time in the NHL.
“To me it’s unbelievable,” Ward said in a conference call. “I just wanted to play one hockey game. The fact I got a chance to play with a lot of great hockey players, Ovie, Jumbo. I got a chance to be around some world-class guys. ... It’s kind of still surreal to me. I was just hoping to get a chance to just be out there at some point. But to be on the ice at the same time as all these guys and be friends with them. I never thought about that growing up.”
The 39-year-old Ward last played in the NHL in 2018 for the San Jose Sharks. He went to training camp with Montreal in 2018-19 but was unable to get another shot and decided officially to end his career in an announcement on the Player’s Tribune.
Ward said he considers himself lucky to have played 726 career games after going undrafted and now wants to focus on being a dad to his 1-year-old son Robinson.
Ward started his career with Minnesota in the 2006-07 season and also played for Nashville, Washington and San Jose in his 11-year career.
He scored 133 goals and had 171 assists in the regular season. He had some of his best moments in the playoffs.
He had seven goals and six assists in 12 games in the 2011 postseason for the Predators, scored a Game 7 double-overtime goal for Washington at Boston in the first round in 2012, and had seven goals and six assists in the 2016 postseason when he helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Pittsburgh.
Ward finished with 22 goals and 30 assists in 83 playoff games.
Ward said he wants to give back to the game in some way, either as a coach or helping the league confront racism that he faced at times in his career.
“Over the years, I’ve had such great teachers, coaches,” he sad. “I think I’ve learned so much over the years and it would be a shame if I kept all that information to myself and not share it.”