Nash hangs ‘em up
by Andrew Podnieks|12 JAN 2019
Rick Nash (in the middle, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and P.K. Subban) after defending Olympic gold in 2014.
photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images
Rick Nash, one of Canada’s greatest international players and a star in the NHL for 15 years, has announced his retirement. The native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada has been an unrestricted free agent since the summer but after careful thought decided for health reasons to end his career.

"Due to unresolved issues/symptoms from the concussion sustained last March, Rick Nash will be forced to retire from the game of hockey. Under the advice of his medical team, the risk of further brain injury is far too great if Rick returns to play," his agent Joe Resnick said in a statement. "Rick would like to thank everyone who has supported him during this difficult time period."

Nash won two-thirds of the Triple Gold Club honours and narrowly missed winning a Stanley Cup. He is most famous in IIHF circles for helping Canada win consecutive gold medals at the Olympics, in both 2010 on home ice and 2014 in Sochi. 

In the former, his most distinguished moment came in the Canada-Russia game when coach Mike Babcock put Nash on the right wing to shut down left winger Alexander Ovechkin. Canada won that game handily, 7-3, and went on to win gold.

Nash was also tournament MVP at the 2007 World Championship in Moscow. Leading a team that included Shea Weber, Jonathan Toews, and Shane Doan, Nash was a force to be reckoned with, scoring a highlight goal against Finland in the finals to seal the championship. 

Nash was also front and centre a year later when the World Championship was held in Canada for the first time, on the occasion of the IIHF’s Centennial. His delay of game penalty for accidentally shooting the puck over the boards led to Ilya Kovalchuk’s golden goal in overtime.

Nash also won a silver medal at the 2005 World Juniors, and a silver later that year at the Worlds at the end of the NHL’s lockout season. He had spent that year in Davos with Joe Thornton, leading the team to a Swiss national championship.

In the NHL, Nash was drafted first overall by Columbus in 2002 and made the team at his first training camp at age 18. In his second year, his 41 goals tied for the lead with Jarome Iginla and Kovalchuk, the three sharing the “Rocket” Richard Trophy. 

During his 15 years he played mostly for the Blue Jackets and New York Rangers, finishing his career in Boston. In all, he recorded 805 regular-season points in 1,060 games. He also helped the Rangers go to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014 before losing to Los Angeles in five games.

Without question Nash scored one of the greatest highlight-reel goals in NHL history. On 17 January 2008, the Blue Jackets were in a 3-3 tie with Phoenix. Taking a pass at centre ice in full flight, he danced around one defenceman, then another, then deked goalie Mikael Tellqvist who tried to pokecheck him. Nash finished by putting the puck into the open net with just 21.5 seconds remaining in the game. The Phoenix fans went nuts realizing what they had just seen.

That is a moment to remember Nash by, irrespective of the concussions he suffered over the years that took too great a toll on his body and health. An IIHF legend and NHL superstar, the game is a little bit the lesser for not having a player like Nash in it any longer.