Emotional Nolan hangs up skates

Emotional Nolan hangs up skates
February 8, 2012, 12:32 am
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SAN JOSE After exactly 1,200 NHL games, 422 goals, 885 points and almost 1800 penalty minutes, former Sharks captain Owen Nolan wanted to remind his mother of another accomplishment when he announced his retirement from professional hockey in a press conference at HP Pavilion on Tuesday.

I think back to when I broke into the league, my mom said jokingly to me, you better not lose any teeth, or youre in trouble, mister. Well, mom, 1,200 games later I still have them all, Nolan joked, with his immediate family sitting in the front row.

One of the most effective power forwards of his era, an emotional Nolan, who spent eight seasons with the Sharks from 1995-2003, sat beside Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and fought back tears.

When your body wont do what your mind and your heart is willing to do, its time to move on, a choked up Nolan said after a 15-second pause to collect himself. Ive enjoyed every minute of it, and had the opportunity to play with some great teams and some great teammates.

Among the players in attendance were current Sharks Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns, former teammates Mike Ricci, Dave Lowry and Scott Hannan, as well as Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who is in town for the Sharks-Calgary matchup on Wednesday night and who won gold with Nolan on Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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Nolan also received congratulatory phone calls from Bryan Marchment, his agent Mike Barrett, and Bob Nicholson, the C.O.O. of Hockey Canada.

All essentially echoed Wilsons words of praise for the former first overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

He was one of the rare, prototypical power forwards that had enough skill to beat you either way, Wilson said. You look in this business, everybody is trying to find that type of player now. They just dont exist. To play that role its a physical role and very tough on your body and tough mentally and have the talent to do the other things, too, is rare.

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He was also among the toughest and hardest players of his era to play against.

He was one of those guys that, he wasnt a dirty player at all, but if you crossed him, if he felt like he needed to get you, he had no problems doing it, Ricci said.

He was extremely competitive, said Marleau, who broke into the NHL in 1997, the year before Nolan was named captain. When he was at the top of his game, he was one of the most feared guys out on the ice. Not only could he score goals, he could lay you out with a body check or even drop the gloves and take care of it that way.

After getting traded by the Sharks to Toronto in 2003, Nolan spent time with the Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild. He was originally drafted by the Quebec Nordiques and moved with them to Colorado for just nine games before he was traded to the Sharks on Oct. 26, 1995.

He tried out for Vancouver this past September after spending last season in Switzerland, but the Canucks decided not to sign him. About a month ago, he ran into Wilson and the two talked about him retiring with the Sharks organization.

The ultimate thing was to have him retire as a San Jose Shark, Wilson said. It was something that he wanted and we wanted badly. Weve used today as a celebration and appreciation for what hes done for this franchise. It means an awful lot to us, and to see him and his family here is very exciting for us and very well deserved.

It was certainly a great gesture on their part, Nolan said.

Despite getting traded out of San Jose, Nolan kept his house, with plans to retire in the area one day.

I knew pretty well that come retirement time I was going to stay out this way, he said. My wife is from here, kids were born here, and I love it here. It was a pretty easy decision.

That didnt make it any easier for him to actually hang up his skates, though.

Its tough to give up something you love doing. I think I knew the time was already here. I think I knew it was here a little while ago, but the heart and mind just wants to keep doing it. Were all programmed to do it, and to try and gear down and accept that youre not what it once was

The fire is still there, you want to compete, but the body just cant keep up. I had to accept that, and finally realize that it was time to move on.