Ryan Smyth announces retirement from hockey
Will play final game Saturday vs. Vancouver
Veteran Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth is retiring from the NHL.
Smyth made the announcement Friday during an emotional news conference at Edmonton's Rexall Place.
"I have been truly blessed to play this game for as long as I have and will cherish the memories forever," Smyth said. "After some difficult discussions over the past week, I felt it was best to make this decision and move on with life after hockey and enjoy every minute I have with my family."
Smyth has been an Oiler for 15 of his 19 NHL seasons, and will play one final game for the franchise Saturday night when the Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada (10 p.m. ET).
Smyth is scheduled to be interviewed on the After Hours segment following the game.
The Oilers sent out several tweets on Friday, with current players describing their feelings about Smyth.
"I'm grateful I had a chance to play with him ... He's a great player, a great teammate and a guy who really loves the game," forward Taylor Hall said.
Smyth has amassed 386 goals and 456 assists in 1,269 NHL regular-season games, with 932 penalty minutes. In 93 playoff games, he added 28 goals, 31 assists and 88 penalty minutes.
The gritty 38-year-old left-winger ranks among the Oilers' all-time leaders in several categories, including second in games played (970), sixth in points (631), fifth in goals (296), seventh in assists (335), fifth in hat tricks (5), fourth in game-winning goals (45) and first in power-play goals (126).
"We would like to thank Ryan for being a great Oiler," said general manager Craig MacTavish. "Ryan and his family are ambassadors for both the Oilers and the city of Edmonton and we cannot thank them enough for their dedication. Ryan truly exemplifies what it means to be an Oiler and I am extremely proud to have had him as a key part of our hockey club for so many years."
Smyth has become known as Captain Canada after representing his country at the world juniors, eight times at the world championships, and twice at the Olympics. He was part of Canada's 2002 gold-medal team at Salt Lake City.
The Banff, Alta., native was selected sixth overall by the Oilers in 1994. After a tentative rookie season in 1995-96, he emerged as a force in his sophomore campaign, with a career-high 39 goals.
He had seven goals and nine assists in 24 playoff games during Edmonton's run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2006.
But the following year, the Oilers plummeted in the standings, and Smyth bid a teary farewell as the organization decided to rebuild. Smyth was sent to the playoff-bound New York Islanders for draft picks and prospects, but the deal never really worked out for either side.
Smyth moved on for stops in Colorado and Los Angeles, returning to the Oilers in a June 2011 trade with the Kings.