Feb 14, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk (23) is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the shootout against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Avalanche defeated the Wild 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
KUSA - Milan Hejduk, who played 14 seasons in the NHL, officially announced his retirement Monday.
Hejduk did not received a new contract by the Colorado Avalanche a free agent after last season and has not been signed by another team for this season.
"The hockey from 10 years ago to what it is right now is way better. It's younger. It's faster. There's more action. It's just more fun to watch," Hejduk said Monday at his news conference. "I don't know if the score is up or down, but the game is way more faster than it used to be. It's more difficult for older guys to keep up with the younger players these days. There are a few exceptions ... but it's not that many.
"The game I think is going in the right direction, as the Avalanche team is right now. They're a young team, fast team, fun to watch. That's the future of the NHL."
During his NHL career, in which he played only for the Avalanche, the forward had 375 goals and 430 assists in 1,020 games. He became the first player in Avalanche history to play 1,000 regular-season games with the Colorado team. His former teammate turned boss, Joe Sakic, played 1,378 games for the franchise, with 508 in Quebec and 870 with Colorado.
"Milan was one of the most humble players I ever had the privilege of competing with," said Sakic, who is now the Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations. "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."
He was drafted in 1994 by Quebec, and was on the NHL's all-rookie team for the 1998-99. In 2002-03, Hejduk led the league in scoring with 50 goals and played in the all-star game in 2000, '01 and '09.
He was the Avs' third team captain (2011-12 season). He was a three-time Olympian with the Czech Republic national team, winning goal in the 1998 Games and bronze in 2006.
Hejduk said he and his family will remain in Denver and he is doing the things that he didn't get to as much when he was playing in the NHL - including golf, skiing and being with his children. He's helping coach at Arapahoe High School.
"I'm basically on the ice every day having fun with the kids. That's probably eased the pain a little bit. I don't feel like I'm missing it much," Hejduk said. "I don't miss the competitive part. I like to watch it. I like to be around hockey, but I don't really miss it, I can't say."
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)