The last weekend before Christmas, Brent Seabrook celebrated the upcoming holidays with a classic Canadian winter retreat.
At that time, life was good. The 35-year-old defender felt largely recovered from his trifecta of hip and shoulder surgeries 11 months earlier. He was excited to rejoin the Blackhawks for January training camp, continue his NHL career after more than a year off, and prove the endless criticism of his albatross contract wrong.
“We [got] Saturday and I went up into the mountains with the kids, ”Seabrook said. “A group of dads from my son’s hockey team pulled the paddle out of a pond and the children skated. We did some ice fishing, made a campfire and had a beer. “
Then life fought back.
The morning of Monday, December 21, 2020, dealt a fatal blow to Seabrook’s determined determination to keep his 15-year career with the Hawks alive.
“I woke up and couldn’t walk,” he said. “I had no idea why. And it has been that way ever since. “
After trying but failing in recent months to regain momentum toward an eventual comeback, Seabrook announced his retirement on Friday.
In the official NHL lexicon, it was not officially retired. Instead, “it will not be possible for [him] to keep playing hockey. ”He will spend the remaining 3.5 years of his contract in the Long-Term Injured Reserve, giving the Hawks some salary cap relief, though that relief is tricky and Seabrook’s $ 6,875 cap through 2024 will continue to be a hindrance, and ensuring that you still receive all of your guaranteed salary.
But Seabrook made clear that after 1,237 regular-season and postseason games, three of the biggest overtime goals in Hawks history: Game 7 against the Red Wings in 2013, Game 4 against the Bruins in 2013. and Game 4 against the Predators in 2015. – and three Stanley Cup rings, this is definitely the end.
“It was an incredible race,” Seabrook said. “I will never forget these last 15, 16 years.”
This sixteenth year might not be so fondly remembered. Seabrook said he considered retiring a month ago, but realized he would regret it later if he didn’t give one last push.
He skated alone for several weeks, then tried to practice with the Hawks’ taxi squad last weekend. But it was very difficult for him to keep up, as he was unable to “push, pivot, or turn” on his right hip.
That prompted a conversation with the Hawks’ team physician, Dr. Michael Terry, in which it became clear that his options were exhausted.
Seabrook first spoke privately and individually with teammates Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews about his decision, then addressed the entire team this week before going public on Friday.
Terry said in a statement Friday that he and Seabrook “tried every conservative treatment available, and nothing has worked well enough for him to live life as an athlete.” Seabrook described that process as “throwing darts at a dart board.”
An X-ray revealed Thursday that he has no cartilage left in his right hip. Eventually, he thinks that a hip replacement might be necessary to achieve his new goal of skiing regularly with his wife and three children.
“I told my body to get away for 15 years, and it finally turned around and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to do it anymore,'” he said.
Seabrook’s last NHL game will be on December 15, 2019, with a 5-3 home win over the Wild.
On December 18, healthy and scratched for the third time in two months, he finally reached out to Hawks doctors about his multitude of physical ailments. That was a shock to the team’s management.
“He never mentioned anything, and then when he finally did bring it up, we realized how serious he was and how he had been playing with this for a long time,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “That depends on your personality. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of things.
“You saw him block shots and he could barely walk. We’d say, ‘You have to get an X-ray.’ And he said, ‘I’m fine.’ This is how it was connected. “
Seabrook’s poor contract and declining game, in part due to those undisclosed injuries, made him a frequent scapegoat in recent years. But during his prime, he and Duncan Keith were equally the Hawks’ two defensive pillars.
From 2007-08 to 2015-16, Seabrook missed just 13 of 786 games and played nearly 23 minutes a night, establishing himself as one of the NHL’s most trusted defensive defenders. His offensive contributions were never as hyped, but he quietly averaged an impressive 35 points per season during that span.
And in the locker room, Seabrook’s unflappable demeanor and uncanny ability to always say the right thing at the right time, at all times, be it to a teammate or the entire team, was a driving force behind all three championships in the Hawks. Your number 7 sweater has a good chance of one day reaching the rafters at the United Center.
But when asked on Friday how he personally hopes to be remembered in Chicago, Seabrook – his physical wear and tear has finally overcome his warrior mentality – characteristically made no demands.
“I played, I gave everything I had, I tried to do it the right way and I wanted to be the best that I could be,” he said. “That is a decision that people must make on their own.”