After missing the 2010-11 season due to post-concussion symptoms, Paul Kariya decided to hang up his skates Wednesday, ending his 15 year career in the NHL. Kariya played in Colorado, Nashville, St.Louis and Anahiem.
The 36-year-old Kariya was the fourth overall pick and first-ever for the expansion Anahiem Mighty Ducks in 1993, after a standout college career at the University of Maine. As a freshman, Kariya earned the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top player and led the Black Bears to a national championship in his only full season.
During his career, Kariya tallied 402 goals and 587 assists in 989 regular-season games and won the Lady Byng Trophy twice for sportsmanship. He added some hardware internationally as well, when he won a gold medal for Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Kariya became a household name in 1996 when the Ducks went out and picked up Teemu Selanne, a young, scoring phenom from the Winnipeg Jets. It wasn’t long before the two became the most potent duo in the NHL and helped put Ducks on the map for California sports fans.
The Ducks’ longest serving captain got his only shot at a Stanley Cup in 2003 against the New Jersey Devils. In Game 6 in Anahiem, Kariya was blindsided on a huge open-ice hit by Devils defenseman Scott Stevens but he returned to the game and later scored. Many believe an equipment change may have saved him from suffering yet another concussion.
Kariya suffered his first concussion in 1996 and had another just two years later. He most recent came in December 2009, after Buffalo Sabres’ forward Patrick Kaleta landed a blindside elbow. It took the remainder of the season for the symptoms to deplete. He was feeling better this past spring and teams were in talks with Kariya for a late season run but his doctor made it clear he was in no position to play. Tests have shown that there is still brain damage and is in the 80th percentile of brain function.
“It was my dream to be a professional hockey player in the NHL,” he said. “I would not have achieved it without support from all of these people and organizations.”
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.