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Neck injury ends career of Canucks' Derek Dorsett

The 30-year-old forward "will not return to the Canucks active roster due to health reasons and risks associated with playing."

Vancouver tough guy says he is devastated after doctor advises him to no longer play

Derek Dorsett says he is devastated that he will no longer be able to play hockey. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The playing career of Canucks tough guy Derek Dorsett appears to be over.

In a release, the Vancouver Canucks say the 30-year-old forward "will not return to the Canucks active roster due to health reasons and risks associated with playing."

"I'm devastated by the news," said Dorsett in a statement. "It will take a long time for this to truly sink in."

Dorsett underwent cervical disc herniation surgery in December of 2016 and surprised many when he was cleared to play again at the start of this season.

The surgery left both his arms numb for a time. Doctors went in through the front of his neck, moving aside vocal chords to remove a disk while replacing it with a graft taken from his hip bone.

Dorsett (right) posted this photo Dec. 7, 2016 thanking spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins (left) and staff at Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles. (Derek Dorsett/Twitter)

Dorsett had an inspired start to the season, scoring seven goals in 20 games. 

But he was sent home from the team's eastern road trip on Nov. 21 after suffering stiffness in his neck and back. 

Dorsett was advised to stop playing by the doctor who performed the surgery. 

"The latest evaluation of Derek's neck revealed that he's sustained a cervical disc herniation adjacent and separate to his previous fusion," said Dr. Robert Watkins. "Given his current condition and the long-term, significant health risks, I advised Derek not to return to play." 

Derek Dorsett, shown here in action against the New Jersey Devils in November of 2017, is calling it a career due to ongoing neck issues. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Dorsett's abrasive playing style despite his modest six-foot 190 pound frame made the undersize tough guy a favourite among fans. 

It's not known how or when he reinjured his neck, but on Nov. 14 Dorsett fought L.A. Kings forward Andy Andreoff, absorbing a number of blows to his head.

Los Angeles Kings Andy Andreoff and Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett brawl during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Chris Carlson/The Associated Press)

"As hard as it was to hear, Dr. Watkins' diagnosis is definitive," said Dorsett. "There is no grey area, and it gives me clarity to move forward. I have a healthy young family and a long life of opportunities ahead of me. Hockey taught me a lot and it will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future."

The Canucks say Dorsett will hold a news conference at a future date.

Dorsett's career has spanned 515 NHL games in which he scored 51 goals and accumulated 1,314 penalty minutes.