With only three games remaining the Colorado Avalanche’s season, it could be the last three games of Captain Milan Hejduk’s career. According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, Hejduk is at least considering retiring from the NHL. Hejduk is the only active player in the National Hockey League who has won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Avalanche
The images that will mark Milan Hejduk’s time in the NHL will be of his younger days. The Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques’ franchise drafted him in 1994 . He was a rookie phenomenon for the Avalanche when he broke into the league in 1998-1999 with 48 points. He won a Stanley Cup on the team’s first line in 2001 playing alongside Joe Sakic. He would move to a line with Peter Forsberg for the next several years.
Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk were special in 2002-2003. After missing the entire regular season due to injury in 2001-2002, Forsberg lit it up in the playoffs, recording 28 points in 20 games. The next season, he and Hejduk had the most productive year in franchise history for two players on the same line. Hejduk had a career high 50 goals and 92 points, earning the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored. Forsberg was just a little better though. He finished with a 106 points and won the Hart Trophy for the league’s most valuable player. Without Hejduk, it would not have been possible.
While Hejduk never had another year as good as that ‘02-‘03 campaign, he continued to produce for the Avalanche. He has scored 20 goals 12 years in a row. It’s a mark he will miss this year, currently stuck with only 13 goals. Hejduk has also recorded ten seasons with 50 points or more and five seasons with more than 70 points. Hejduk has been a winger for centers Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Chris Drury, Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.
Hejduk won a gold medal with the Czech Republic team in 1998, but has been a stronger contributor in national events since that time. While Jaromir Jagar is the country’s most successful hockey player, Hejduk is still one of their most famous. Hejduk has also been selected for three NHL all-star games.
Milan Hejduk has had his most trying season in 2011-2012. While he was named captain of the team in November as the elder statesman of the team, he has struggled to find his footing on the ice. His lack of scoring and size has made it hard to find his place on the team. Recently, he has spent a lot of time on the Avs’ third and fourth lines, a place in the line up that is foreign to Hejduk.
Hejduk is a prideful player. He does not want to stay past his welcome. He has seen what can happen to players who hold on too long, like Peter Forsberg last year. Hejduk has signed one-year contracts with the Avalanche the last couple of years. There is a chance that he will try to shake off a bad season and give the NHL one more shot. However, with respect for the game and twins at home, Hejduk may be making his final laps around the Pepsi Center next week against Columbus and Nashville.
Hejduk is the Avalanche’s final bridge to the Stanley Cup, and the only other player to be on the team since before the lockout is Paul Stastny. Hejduk has had a great career with the Avalanche and will see his name hanging from the rafters with his former teammates in the Pepsi Center very soon. If he does retire, he retires from a successful career in hockey. It has been a pleasure growing up watching the Duke take the ice. He would be the only player that I have watched an entire successful career with up close. Thanks for everything Milan.