Red Wings Brian Rafalski Expected To Announce Retirement Wednesday
The Detroit Red Wings have announced a press conference for 11:00am Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena where it is expected that defenseman Brian Rafalski will announce his retirement from the National Hockey League after eleven seasons. This was Rafalski’s fourth season in Detroit after previously playing for the New Jersey Devils, and in Sweden and Finland. The 37 year old, who went undrfated after a college career at Wisconsin, has one year left on his contract. It is believed that knee and back injuries over the last couple seasons are contributing to the retirement.
Brian Rafalski was originally from Dearborn, Michigan, but his path towards a career in professional hockey really started in Madison, Wisconsin. In Madison, Rafalski played for the Madison Capitols of the USHL, then spent four years at the University of Wisconsin. Rafalski tallied 20 goals, 78 assists, and 98 points while playing for the Badgers, including averaging more than a point a game his senior season. Rafalski also played in a Frozen Four his freshman year. That national title game, played against Lake Superior State, continues to be one of the most painful hockey games I’ve ever seen in my life.
After his stellar college career, Rafalski went undrafted in the NHL, and moved to Sweden to play professionally. Rafalski spent five years playing overseas in both Sweden and Finland before signing as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils in 1999. Rafalski won his first of two Stanley Cups in his rookie season of 1999-2000. The Devils also won again with Rafalski on the roster in 2003.
After seven strong seasons in New Jersey as part of the Devils top defensive pairing, Rafalski decided to use his free agency to move closer to home. Rafalski signed a five year, $30 million contract with the Red Wings, and immediately was paired with Nick Lidstrom as the Red Wing’s top d-line. The Red Wings won the Stanly Cup in 2008, and narrowly avoided repeating the next season. In all, Rafalski played in five Stanley Cup Finals, winning the iconic trophy three times. Rafalski also scored the game winning goal in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Blackhawks. Rafalski will finish his NHL career with 79 goals, 436 assists for 515 points in 833 games. In the playoffs, Rafalski scored 29 goals, 71 assists for 100 points in 165 playoff games.
Besides a career at Wisconsin and in professional hockey, Rafalski was also a fixture on US National teams throughout his career. Rafalski played in two World Juniors tournaments, an IIHF World Championships, one World Cup Of Hockey, and three Olympic games. In the Olympics, Rafalski won two silver medals, losing to Canada in each final (2002, 2010). Despite being the player who Sidney Crosby beat for the Olympic winning goal, Rafalski was named to the all tournament team, as well as the most outstanding defenseman of the 2010 Vancouver games.
Brian Rafalski brought a work ethic and leadership quality to every team he played for. While he wasn’t known as an excessive goal scorer, Rafalski was one of the best passing blueliners in the NHL. His ability to stretch the ice from his own defensive zone was a key to the potent Red Wings forecheck of the last few years. When Rafalski was on the ice, it was nearly impossible for opponents to score.
While injuries may have cut his career short, few people have accomplished the feats of Brian Rafalski. From undrafted free agent to three time Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic captain, Rafalski truly is one of the greatest American hockey players ever.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .Follow paulmbanks