Feb 24, 2014 6:00 PM by Greg Smith
Former Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk announced today that he is retiring from the game of hockey.
"I was fortunate to play many years at this level with a great organization and unbelievable teammates," said Hejduk. "I realized my lifelong dream of not only playing in the NHL but winning a Stanley Cup. My family and I are proud to call Denver home and are enjoying our time together."
Hejduk, 38, played 14 seasons in the NHL, all with the Colorado Avalanche. He recorded 375 goals and 430 assists for 805 points in 1,020 career games. Hejduk appeared in his 1,000th game on Feb. 4, 2013 vs. Dallas, becoming the first player in Colorado Avalanche history to play 1,000 career regular season games in an Avs sweater. The only other franchise player to reach 1,000 contests was Joe Sakic, who appeared in 508 games with Quebec and 870 with Colorado (1,378 total).
A native of Usti-nad Labem, Czech Republic, Hejduk ranks fourth in franchise history in both goals and points, and is fifth in assists. Only Sakic (391) scored more goals with the Avalanche after the team relocated from Quebec. Hejduk is the franchise record-holder with nine regular-season overtime goals and his 59 career game-winning tallies rank second to Sakic's 86. Milan is third in power-play goals with 140.
Hejduk reached the 20-goal mark in 11 consecutive seasons from 1999-00 to 2010-11, tying Sakic's franchise record. Hejduk scored 343 goals during that 11-season stretch, averaging 31 per year. Only three NHL players scored more goals during that span: Jarome Iginla (422), Marian Hossa (373) and Ilya Kovalchuk (369).
"Milan was one of the most humble players I ever had the privilege of competing with," said Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic. "On the ice, he had one of the quickest and smoothest hands of any teammate I ever played with. His release, along with his hockey sense and vision, made him one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL during his prime. Milan was a true winner and would do anything he could to help our team win. He was a quiet leader who led by example and always represented this organization and himself with class."
Selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the fourth round (87th overall) of the 1994 Entry Draft, Hejduk helped the Avalanche win the 2001 Stanley Cup championship. He captured the franchise's first Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal scorer after scoring 50 goals during the 2002-03 campaign. Hejduk was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team in 2002-03 and was a Calder Trophy finalist and a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1998-99. He competed in three NHL All-Star Games: 2000, 2001 and 2009.
In NHL history, only two Czech-born players have registered more points: Jaromir Jagr (1,737) and Patrik Elias (963). Hejduk's 375 goals are also third among Czech-born players behind Jagr (698) and Elias (386). Milan is tied with Butch Goring and Trevor Linden for 107th place on the NHL's all-time goals list.
Hejduk was named team captain on Nov. 14, 2011 and spent the 2011-12 season in that role. He became only the third captain in Avalanche history-alongside Sakic and Adam Foote-and 10th different captain in franchise history.
In franchise playoff history, Hejduk ranks third in goals (34-tied), fourth in points (76) and fifth in both assists (42) and games played (112). He is Pepsi Center's all-time leader with 188 goals and 397 points in 466 games at the Avalanche's home rink.
A three-time Olympian, Hejduk won a gold medal with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan and a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. He represented his country in eight major international tournaments, including three Olympics, two world championships, two world junior championships and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.