“After 15 full NHL seasons, I have decided to retire form the best league in the world,” he said through a statement. “When I was drafted in 2004,” he continued, “I had no idea that I would be working with such incredible and driven people who would lead us to 3 Stanley Cup Finals, winning the ultimate goal in 2011.”
Krejci played every one of his NHL games with Boston and is the third marquee name to retire from the Bruins in the last year, following Zdeno Chara last year and Patrice Bergeron just a few weeks ago. In addition to his sensational NHL career, Krejci represented Czechia at the U18, U20, World Championship, and Olympics, winning four bronze medals over a total of ten tournaments.
Born in Sternberk, Krejci caught the eye of NHL scouts for his fine play at the IIHF U18 World Championship in 2004 in Minsk, winning a bronze medal and recording seven points in as many games. The Bruins drafted him 64th overall that summer, and he moved to Quebec to play major junior hockey in Canada with Gatineau. After two productive seasons, he turned pro and was assigned to Providence in the AHL for the 2006-07 season, during which time he also made his NHL debut. While playing in the “Q”, Krejci also played at two World Junior Championships, winning another bronze in 2005 and leading the team in scoring a year later. That included a hat trick in a preliminary-round game against Slovakia which helped give the Czechs a berth in the quarter-finals.
The following year Krejci slowly but surely played his way out of the AHL and into the NHL, and his year culminated with his first appearance at the World Championship, in Quebec City, for the IIHF’s 100th anniversary. Although the Czechs finished a disappointing 5th, the experience helped Krejci impress at training camp in 2008. It was clear that he was ready for the Bruins on a full-time basis.
He never looked back, scoring 22 goals in his first full season and leading the league with a plus-minus of +37. In 2009-10, his stats were a little down but he was establishing himself as a 200-foot player who could be relied upon in all situations. During the season, he was also named to the Czech Olympic team for Vancouver. As well, quietly effective on a Bruins team loaded with talent, Krejci was the perfect player whose rise and development not coincidentally aligned with the Bruins’ ascent to Stanley Cup glory in the spring of 2011. The now 25-year-old led the playoffs in goals (12) and points (23) as well as game-winning goals (4), and the team won the Cup for the first time since Bobby Orr led the B’s to victory 39 years earlier, defeating Vancouver in seven games.
Krejci won his first senior IIHF medal at the 2012 IIHF World Championship when the Czechs beat Finland at Hartwall Arena, 3-2, to claim bronze. Krejci scored the game winner late in the first period, his goal giving the Czechs a 3-1 lead that held up the rest of the way. Two years later, he played in his second Olympics, in Sochi, finishing 6th. In the NHL, the Bruins lost early in the 2012 playoffs, but they returned to the Cup Finals in 2013, losing to Chicago in six games. Krejci led the playoffs in assists (17) and points (26).
The Bruins made it to their third Finals in 2019 and again lost, this time to St. Louis in seven games. At the end of the 2020-21 season, Krejci left the NHL and returned home to play a season with Olomouc in the Czech Extraliga. He figured he’d play one more year in front of his home fans, and then retire. That 21-22 season was punctuated by his last two international appearances, at both the Olympics and World Championship, but he discovered that he wasn’t yet ready to hang ‘em up. In the end, he returned to Boston for what was one final season, last year, during which time he played in his 1,000th career game.
By that time, he had done it all, and his desire to spend more time with his family outweighed his love of the game by this point. “Now it’s time for me to try to be the best husband and father I can be and support you in the next chapter in life,” he wrote eat the end of his statement.
A sportsman, admired by teammates and opponents, Krejci respected the game and the fans, and that respect was met in kind. He’s 37, with many years of life left, but he has skated in a professional game for the last time. He gave it his all, and went out on his own terms, with his health in order. It’s hard not to admire such a player and person.