After 20 years of playing professional hockey in North America and Europe, former NHL winger Zigmund Palffy has hung up the skates and called it a career. Palffy played 684 NHL games over 12 seasons from 1993-2006 with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, totaling 713 points (329 goals, 384 assists) during his NHL career. Palffy suddenly retired from NHL play, went home and played five more professional seasons with HK 36 Skalica. While playing those five years in Slovakia, Palffy was still able to put up good offensive numbers like he did in the NHL. Last season, in Slovakia, he scored 73 points (26 goals, 47 assists) in 39 games. Still some pretty impressive numbers.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why am I spending time writing about Palffy? There are two reasons actually. One, he was, and still is, my all-time favorite hockey player. Two, is the fact that he was still able to play pro hockey for 20 years at a high level and be productive for all those years. When Palffy was healthy and on his game, he was one of the top right wingers in all of hockey. Here’s some of what I mean about Palffy’s play. In six seasons with the Islanders, Palffy posted 331 points (168 goals, 163 assists) in 331 games. His 0.51 goals per game average with the Islanders rank fourth in franchise history, while his 1.00 points per game are good for fifth. Palffy was the face of the Islanders for his six years with the team, hands down their best player. The only thing that didn’t work out for him on Long Island was getting a chance to possibly shine in the playoffs.
Palffy got that chance when he was traded to the Kings, and he didn’t disappoint. When Palffy got to the Kings, he was still at the top of his game before shoulder injuries started to slow him down. Palffy played five years in Los Angeles and was able to still produce, averaging 30 goals and 60-80 points per year when healthy. He could still go before shoulder injuries got to him a bit. When the NHL had the lockout in 2003-04, Palffy went home to play in Slovakia. He returned to the NHL when the league re-opened for business and played 41 games with the Penguins, scoring 11 goals and 42 points before calling it quits in North America. After a little time off, Palffy returned to Slovakia to play in the to play five more years before calling it quits for good at age 41.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, I have many fond memories of watching Palffy play during his six years on Long Island. He was the best player on the team and the best player they have had in a few years. He was a guy you could build the team around. That, sadly, never really materialized here on the Island. Palffy made plays almost every night. He made me want to watch hockey and really got me into the game. Palffy made guys want to play with him, and he made guys around him better, even if just a little bit. Palffy would score some goals that would make the highlight reels on a nightly basis.
It was a great joy to watch Palffy play during his time in the NHL. I credit him for being one of the reasons I really got into hockey. For everything he did for me as a hockey fan and for everything he did for the game as a whole, both on Long Island and in Los Angeles, we thank him for his service.