Unfortunately, after 15 years, longtime left-winger Rick Nash, who played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, announced his retirement due to unresolved concussion issues/symptoms.
The 34-year-old forward finished his playing career with 437 goals and 368 assists for 805 points in 1,060 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season games along with 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 89 playoff games.
He ranks 67th all-time in goals scored and, since the 2002/2003 season, ranks fourth in goals. Only Alex Ovechkin (607), Jarome Iginla (451) and Patrick Marleau (438) scored more goals than Nash during his time in the NHL.
During his illustrious career, he was never able to lift that elusive Stanley Cup. He unfortunately suffered his latest head injury on March 31, 2018, while chasing that dream as a member of the Bruins, a team that traded a large package of assets to acquire his unique skill set.
Message from Top Shelf Sports Management Inc.
A statement from Joe Resnick of Top Shelf Sports Management Inc. was released on Nash's behalf, which said that the veteran forward is still dealing with unresolved issues and symptoms from a concussion he suffered last March.
“Due to unresolved issues/symptoms from the concussion sustained last March, Rick Nash will be forced to retire from the game of hockey,” Nash’s agency, Top Shelf Sports Management, wrote in a statement. “Under the advice of his medical team, the risk of further brain injury is far too great if Rick returns to play. Rick would like to thank everyone who has supported him during this difficult time period.”
Nash still held hope
In June of 2018, Nash apparently could have taken a multi-year contract worth around $15 million, but he's decided to take a step back from the free agent process to concentrate on his health and well-being.
In October of 2018, Nash told The Athletic, “there's a chance I could get healthy, come back and be great. But there's definitely a chance that I don't."
At the time of the announcement, it was reported that leading contenders for this year’s championship included the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Blue Jackets and Bruins who all expressed interest in Nash’s availability as a potential addition to their postseason playoff roster.
If healthy, Nash could have joined one those teams and truly made an impact on the race for Lord Stanley. Unfortunately, as trade deadline and playoff time approaches these teams can obviously now cross him off their list.
Career with the Columbus Blue Jackets
Nash was drafted out of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) by the Blue Jackets first overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Joining the Blue Jackets immediately after his draft year in 2002/03, Nash debuted on October 10, 2002, and scored a goal in a 2–1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. He was the eighth number-one overall pick to score a goal in their first game and the first to do so in his draft year since Mario Lemieux in 1984.
That season, Nash was nominated for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, but lost to defenseman Barret Jackman of the St. Louis Blues. He would, however, join Jackman on the NHL All-Rookie Team.
Nash, as the team’s first franchise player, would later represent Columbus as their captain for several years. He introduced NHL hockey to the Blue Jackets’ fan base as a teenage phenom and provided them with highlight after highlight throughout the years he played for the organization.
He remains their all-time leader in every major offensive category: goals (289), assists (258) and points (547).
Career as a New York Ranger
The second part of his career was spent as a member of the Rangers, where he once again found his scoring touch and put up a 42-goal season for the team in 2014/15. He is one of only 12 players to have ever scored at least 42 goals in a single season for the Rangers, and should be remembered well even if he wasn’t able to get the team to a championship.
During the 2017/18 season, the Rangers struggled relative to their results from past seasons. With that, on February 8, 2018, the team released a letter to fans that signaled intentions to begin a rebuild, to which rumors of Nash’s trade began to swirl, as he was in the last year of his contract.
Career with the Boston Bruins
On February 25, 2018, one day before the trade deadline, Nash was traded to the Bruins in exchange for Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, prospect Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick.
Nash's first goal as a Bruin came on February 27, 2018, as it comprised the 800th scoring point of his career, en route to a 4–3 overtime Boston home ice win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Nash recorded three goals and three assists for six total points in 11 games.
On March 17, 2018, Nash suffered a concussion, perhaps his fourth throughout his career, against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he received a shoulder, forearm to the head from Cedric Paquette. That was at least the third of his career.
“I exposed myself a bit and I feel like I put myself in a bad area and just took a shoulder or forearm to the head,” Nash said.
Nash missed the final 12 games of the regular season but returned for the postseason, tallying three goals, two assists and a minus-7 rating in 12 games played.
Awards and recognition
Nash, the 6’4” power winger at his best was a freight train on skates, moving faster than almost anyone on the ice and using his exceptionally long reach to slide pucks around defensemen and goaltenders alike. He compiled eight 30-goal seasons, including a 41-goal sophomore campaign and the aforementioned career-best 42-goal season with the Rangers.
Equally he was a six-time All-Star honoree.
Along with his immense offensive ability, Nash developed into a top defensive player. He received Selke votes three times in his career. He also received Hart Trophy votes on three occasions, though the only individual trophy he collected was a Maurice Richard award for leading the league in goals as a 19-year old sophomore.
He tied for winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer with Calgary Flames’ Jarome Iginla and Atlanta Thrashers’ Ilya Kovalchuk.
Captured Olympic Gold & World Championships medals
Outside of the NHL, Nash was also a prominent international scorer, helping Team Canada capture Olympic gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games (recording five points in seven games) and 2014 Sochi Games, while winning three World Championships medals. A captain for Canada at the 2011 World Championships, he earned a silver medal in 2005, a gold in 2007 and another silver in 2008.
In 2007, he was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Nash a true family man
The Brampton, Ontario-born Nash has always been extremely dedicated to his family, and his decision to retire is just more proof of that dedication. While there is certainly more successful hockey in his body, taking care of his brain is the obvious choice.
“It’s been 15 years, it’s been over 1,000 games,” Nash said. “It’s about my family now and giving my kids the best life I can provide them.”
In the end, the decision was to choose long-term health over a return to the ice. He’ll be long remembered as one of the greatest goal scoring talents of his generation, and one that helped the Blue Jackets establish themselves as a fixture in the NHL.
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