Sekera, 36, retires for family
by Andrew Podnieks|20 JUL 2022
Andrej Sekera during his last IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Slovakia in 2019.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Andrej Sekera, one of the finest defenders ever to come out of Slovakia, has decided to retire at age 36. The Bojnice native had a sensational career both internationally and in the NHL, most recently with the Dallas Stars this past season. In all, he played 16 seasons and 842 regular-season games in North America, but without a doubt the highlight of his career came in 2012 when he anchored a Slovakia blue line that earned a stunning silver medal at the World Championship in Helsinki, only the fourth – and still most recent – medal for the country in WM play.

Sekera also captained his country at three levels of play – U18s and World Juniors (once each), and World Championships (three times).

“My hockey career is over," Sekera told "I've had some offers as a free agent, but still I decided to quit. A big reason was my son had had some medical issues during the last year. After everything we went through, I realized the best would be if I devoted more time to my family. I thought maybe it would turn around somehow, but that did not happen."

Sekera developed in the Dukla Trencin system until 2004, when he was drafted 71th overall by the Buffalo Sabres. He moved to Canada to prepare for the NHL and played in the OHL with Owen Sound for two years, making his NHL debut on 9 December 2006, a 3-2 shootout win in Montreal. This came during another two-year period when he improved in the AHL, and he finally became a full-time NHLer to start the 2008/09 season, quickly earning rave reviews for play inside his own end. 

During his half dozen years in the Sabres’ organization, the team never made it past the first round of the playoffs, affording him the chance to represent his country. Sekera had played at both the U18 (2004) and U20 (2005, 2006), and he made his senior IIHF debut at the 2008 Worlds in Quebec City. Both that year and the following, though, the team performed poorly, but they made up for it at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Sekera recorded only one point that tournament, but it was a key goal in a 4-3 quarter-finals win over Sweden en route to the bronze medal game. 

After disappointing Worlds in 2010 and 2011, not much was expected of the Slovaks in 2012, their glory days of gold in 2002 seemingly past. But Sekera teamed up with Zdeno Chara on the blue line, and the forwards, led by Miro Satan, Michal Handzus, and Branko Radivojevic advanced to the gold medal game before succumbing to the Russians, 6-2. Sekera led the team in scoring with nine points, including an assist on Handzus’s dramatic game winner late in a 4-3 win over Canada in the quarter-finals. The Slovaks then beat archrivals Czech Republic, 3-1, in the semis, and the team celebrated a most improbable silver after falling in the finals.

Back in the NHL, a trade to Los Angeles didn’t pan out and he signed a six-year, $33-million deal with Edmonton in the summer of 2015. But he suffered a string of unfortunate injuries that cut him time with the Oilers to two seasons, after which he joined Dallas to close out his career. It was with the Stars that he had his most successful playoffs in the spring of 2020 as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose to Tampa Bay.

Sekera played several more times with Slovakia, but success was fleeting at the World Championship. He played again in 2013, finishing 8th, and wore the “C” for Slovakia three more times without a podium finish (2016, 2018, 2019). Sekera was chosen to play for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup, helping the Ralph Krueger-coached team reach the finals against Canada. He also played at the Sochi Olympics, but another disappointing finish (11th) played out.

Sekera was the kind of stay-at-home, shut-down defender a team can’t win without. Never flashy, he was physical and effective throughout his career and was well-known for being able to log ice time with the best of them.