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Brendan Shanahan owns three Stanley Cup rings and sits 11th all-time in goals, with 656 over his career. ((Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images))

NHL veteran Brendan Shanahan retired Tuesday, ending a 21-season professional hockey career.

"I would like to thank my family and all of the friends who have helped me achieve and maintain my childhood dream of playing in the National Hockey League," he said in an NHL release.

"I am enormously grateful to all of my coaches and teammates I've had the privilege of learning from, and playing alongside of, throughout my career."

Shanahan's career statistics

 Season  Team  GP  G  A  Pts
 1987-88  Devils  65  7  19  26
 1988-89  Devils  68  22  28   50
 1989-90  Devils  73  30  42  72
 1990-91  Devils  75  29  37  66
 1991-92  Blues  80  33  36  69
 1992-93  Blues  71  51  43  94
 1993-94  Blues  81  52  50  102
 1994-95  Blues  45  20  21  41
 1995-96  Whalers  74  44  34  78
 1996-97  Whalers  2  1  0  1
 1996-97  Red Wings  79  46  41  87
 1996-97  TOTAL  81  47  41  88
 1997-98  Red Wings  75  28  29  57
 1998-99  Red Wings  81  31  27  58
 1999-2000  Red Wings  78  41 37   78
 2000-01  Red Wings  81  31  45  76
 2001-02  Red Wings  80  37  38  75
 2002-03  Red Wings  78  30  38  68
 2003-04  Red Wings  82  25  28  53
 2005-06  Red Wings  82  40  41  81
 2006-07  Rangers  67  29  33  62
 2007-08  Rangers  73  23  23  46
 2008-09  Devils  34  6  8  14
 CAREER    1,524  656  698  1,354

The 40-year-old forward tried to crack the New Jersey Devils roster at the beginning of this season but was cut in training camp.

The Toronto native leaves an impressive resumé in his wake. He owns three Stanley Cup rings and sits 11th all-time in goals, with 656 over his career.

He's 23rd overall in points, with 1,354, and is also the only player in NHL history to tally at least 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes in a career.

Shanahan leads the league with 17 career "Gordie Howe hat-tricks" (one goal, one assist, and one fight in a game). Speaking of Howe, Shanahan's 19 consecutive 20-goal seasons rank second only to Mr. Hockey's 21.

Clutch performer

One of the league's top clutch performers, Shanahan is fifth all-time with 109 game-winning goals.

The future Hall of Famer was at his best in the playoffs, where he appeared in 19 of his 21 seasons. He is 35th on the NHL's playoff scoring list with 134 points in 184 games, and is tied for 19th with 12 game-winning playoff goals.

"Great player and a great pro," former New York Rangers coach Tom Renney told The Associated Press in an email.

"Huge insight on the game, and very helpful in the player/coach role. I saw him as a superior leader who cared more about winning than anything else, but took great pride in helping young players grow.

"The game is better for having had Brendan in it and will continue to [be] as long as he stays involved."

Internationally, Shanahan had major successes while representing Canada. He helped lead Team Canada to its first world championship in 33 years in 1994 and was part of the Canada Cup-winning side in 1991.

He was part of two Olympic squads in 1998 and 2002, and the latter year was Shanahan's best in hockey.

He helped break Canada's 50-year Olympic gold drought in Salt Lake City, then went on to win the Stanley Cup with Detroit a few months later — only the third player in NHL history to accomplish the dual feat in the same year.

Shanahan is one of only 22 players, and four Canadians, in the exclusive "triple gold" club, which includes players with a Stanley Cup ring and gold at the Olympics and IIHF World Championships.

3 Cups with Wings

Shanahan began his NHL career in 1987, when he was drafted second overall by the New Jersey Devils.

After his four seasons with New Jersey, he signed with the St. Louis Blues in 1990-91 and the Devils were awarded eventual captain Scott Stevens as compensation.

His career blossomed in St. Louis, where he had two 50-goal seasons (1992-93, 1993-94) and cracked the 100-point plateau for the only time in his career (1993-94).

He was traded to the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) in 1994-95, a deal that sent star defenceman Chris Pronger to the Blues. Shanahan spent one full season with the Whalers before he was dealt to Detroit in 1996-97.

Shanahan had his best successes with the Red Wings, where he won his three Cups (1997, '98, 2002) and scored at least 30 goals in seven of his nine seasons with Detroit.

He signed with the Rangers before the 2006-07 season and spent two campaigns in New York. He returned to the Devils midway through the 2007-08 season, his final one in the league.

Now that his playing days are done, Shanahan could be a fit for the NHL Players' Association, which is in a state of flux following the firing of executive director Paul Kelly and the resignations of several union officials.

Kelly was dismissed during a meeting in August, and his interim replacement Ian Penny is also gone, along with the eight-member advisory board. Interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove stepped down last week, citing the inability to perform his duties as the reason.

Donald Fehr, the outgoing executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has been appointed to assist the NHLPA in its search for an executive director.

"Maybe he will be our new executive director," said Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette, the team's player representative. "Shanny is a leader through and through, so his leadership will be valuable in any capacity. He is either going to be a general manager or he could work for the NHLPA.

"He could do a million things that would influence hockey. He will do something great in hockey, you'll see."

Shanahan conducted a summit during the NHL's 2004-05 lockout, and that gathering of people from all aspects of hockey produced several suggestions that led to rule changes after a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.

The changes included taking out the two-line pass violation, instituting a crackdown on obstruction fouls and putting in the "goalie trapezoid" limiting where netminders can handle the puck.

These rules have sped up the game considerably and create more offence.