In a blockbuster piece of news from the New Jersey Devils camp, superstar Ilya Kovalchuk has announced he is planning to retire from the NHL, effectively immediately. (As I write this, the ink is drying on the contract void.)
March 21, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) looks on from the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
From my understanding, no one had seen this coming except for Lou Lamoriello. Kovalchuk has always wanted to return to his native Russia and Lamoriello was indeed aware of that. Kovalchuk released this statement:
"“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia. Though I decided to return this past season, Lou was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for and our fans that have been great to me.”"
Kovalchuk was drafted 1st overall, the first time for a Russian, in the 2001 entry draft to the Atlanta Thrashers. After spending a franchise contract with them and a stint with Moscow during the 2005 lockout, Kovalchuk was then traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2010. Since then he has remained a fan favourite and hockey superstar. In his 816 career NHL games he has recorded 816 points. Yes, that’s a point a game.
His many accolades also include 3 All-Star game appearances, a Calder Trophy win, a Rocket Richard Trophy win, an Olympic bronze medal and numerous World Championship and junior medals.
It’s a sad day for the New Jersey Devils and a sad day for NHL. We mourn the loss of one of the best players to ever play the game.
Mar 19, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) skates with the puck during the third period at the Prudential Center. The Rangers defeated the Devils 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports