Why is it there are athletes who decide, for whatever reason, that even though they are still major contributors, it is time to pack it in?
Likewise, why, on those same teams, might you find athletes who should have left the building long ago?
As a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs (stop laughing) I could not wait for Tie Domi to pack it in. But truth be told, he didn’t pack it in. The Leafs finally smartened up and bought him out, essentially turning him into a free agent.
Citing the fact that he could not bare to wear another team's jersey, Domi chose retirement. As if!
The fact is he probably should have been out of the NHL a few years prior, but he was quite chummy with top Leaf Brass, who gave him a sweetheart contract unlikely to come from any other team.
Since the lockout, the role of fighter/instigator had changed, and Domi didn’t cut it. I have heard many times that he was a negative factor in the locker room, as well.
I will say this, though—despite his thuggish ways, Domi was not stupid. He got as much out of the Leafs as possible, and when they cut ties he faced facts and chose retirement.
Then, there is Mats Sundin. Ah yes, he whose hockey future is shrouded in mystery. Sundin has been spending this summer contemplating his future, and one of his options is retirement.
Despite being 37, the big Swede has not really slowed down. He maintained a point per game average last season, and at times was dominant.
Until he comes forth with a decision regarding his future there will be teams pursuing him. Why? Because they don’t think he is ready to retire. Beyond his terrific stats, Sundin has remained remarkably sturdy over his lengthy career. He only missed eight games last season and just seven the year before.
So while there are players like Domi who will bleed the game for all it’s worth, there are players like Gretzky, Bourque, and Sundin, who contributed every game they played.
Gretzky went out as the most prolific point-maker of all time. Bourque went out as a champion—on top. If Sundin chooses retirement, he will go out as the greatest Swede to lace his skates up in the NHL—sadly, without ever having a legitimate shot at the Cup.