After 18 seasons in the NHL, including 11 with the Devils, Bobby Holik is retiring.
Holik said today that his decision has nothing to do with the back injury that bothered him near the end of the playoffs. In fact, he said made up his mind that this would be his final season before the playoffs even began.
"My back is fine," he said today from his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "That's completely taken care of and healed. It has nothing to do with my back. I actually made the decision during the course of the season, a while ago, just strictly because of my family. That was the main reason, just being here every day with them. And another thing I was looking at was that I don't have to retire. So, it's the perfect time to do it.
"I feel fortunate, so it's the perfect time to do. But my main reason was my wife (Renee) and my daughter (Hannah). I just wanted to be home. It was just time."
He said called Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello a couple of weeks ago to inform him of his decision.
"I have a lot of respect for him, so I wanted to tell him myself before anybody else knew," he said.
Holik, 38, finishes his NHL career with 326 goals, 421 assists and 1,423 penalty minutes in 1,314 NHL games. His 202 goals as a Devil (in 786 games) rank as the third most in team history behind Patrik Elias' 295 and John MacLean's 347.
Holik won Stanley Cups with the Devils in 1995 and 2000, but left New Jersey after the 2001-02 season to sign a five-year, $45 million contract with the rival Rangers as an unrestricted free agent. After the Rangers bought him out of the remaining two years on his contract following the 2004-05 NHL, he played three seasons in Atlanta. He signed a one-year. $2.5 million contract to rejoin the Devils last summer.
He admitted that being away from his daughter and wife was more difficult this past season than in previous ones.
"Yeah, it was," he said. "My daughter is in school here (in Wyoming) because towards the end of a player's career, you kind of hop around a little bit. Plus, she's very involved with the horses and all of that, so it's not an easy thing to just move around, pick up and go anywhere you wanted. So, we made a decision that she needed to stay home the last couple of years. And, do you know what? If they were living in New Jersey with me, I don't think the decision would be any different.
"Just with the every day grind of the season and all of that, not physically, but mentally, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to leave."
Holik had four goals and five assists in 62 games with the Devils in 2008-09. He missed 18 games after fracturing his pinky on Oct. 18 in Washington. He then was healthy scratch for the last two games of the regular season and four of the team's seven playoff games.
Still, he says he has no regrets about returning to New Jersey or any other decisions he's made in his career.
"People have asked me that because I have made some decisions in my career that a lot of people have questioned," he said. "I never have regrets looking back on any of my decisions in my career. It's been great."
Holik left Czechoslovakia 19 years ago after being drafted 10th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1989. He was traded to the Devils along with a second-round draft pick in the 1993 draft (which became Jay Pandolfo) and future considerations for goaltender Sean Burke and defenseman Eric Weinrich on Aug. 28, 1992.
Holik said winning the Stanley Cup twice were among the biggest accomplishments of his career, but there was more to it than that.
"It was great. No doubt about it," he said. "It was the only time I felt like, 'Wow. We accomplished something.' But my best memories are of playing the game, practicing. My memories are of competing. Everyone always thinks it's about the glamour or the glory. So, no matter how successful you are, it's such a few moments that if that's what you're do it for, then you're not happy. From my own experience, I was very happy to be a hockey player because I enjoyed practicing. I enjoyed playing the game.
"It's a game and sometimes in the locker room, off the ice, with all the travel, maybe I didn't come across as the happiest man. But when I was on the ice -- when I stepped on the ice for practice or games -- I was like a kid. Maybe I didn't play that way, but, boy, that's what I remember. Walking out of the locker room and taking that first stride, it was like, 'Wow. This is fun' every single day no matter how bad the team was that I played for."