ricci-mike070104-getty

Mike Ricci was chosen one spot ahead of Jaromir Jagr in the 1990 NHL draft. ((Noah Graham/Getty Images))

Mike Ricci is hanging up his skates.

The hard-nosed veteran of 16 NHL seasons announced his retirement Monday at a charity golf tournament in Peterborough, Ont., where he starred in junior hockey.

Ricci, 35, said he hadn't recovered asquickly as he had hoped from the neck surgery he underwent last summer.

The native of Toronto returned to his last team, the Phoenix Coyotes, at the start of last season, but played only seven games. After the Coyotes declined to re-sign him, he became a free agent.

"I tried to play but wasn't strong enough," Ricci said. "It was tough. I tried but just didn't have the health. I wasn't ready. I hoped I could still play but couldn't do it. With that, and other reasons, I decided to retire."

The other reasons involved his family. He and his wife Beth, who is from Peterborough, have three young children.

"My family is important," Ricci said. "It's different now when you have three children seven [years of age]and younger."

After racking up a combined 106 goals and 222 penalty minutes in his final two seasons with the OHL's Peterborough Petes, Ricci was selected fourth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1990 NHL draft. That was one spot ahead of Jaromir Jagr, who went to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In 1,099 games with Philadelphia, Quebec, Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix,Ricci collected 243 goals and 361 assists along with 974 penalty minutes.The forward'sbest season came in 1992-93, when he notched 78 points on 27 goals and 51 assists for the Nordiques.

With files from the Canadian Press