It had been speculated that unrestricted free agent Andy McDonald would not return to the St. Louis Blues for a sixth full season. McDonald, who has played five and a half seasons with the Blues, has been one of their go-to offensive cogs when healthy. He's scored 90 goals and added 110 assists in 294 games, but some seasons were shorter than others due to concussions. It's worrisome to fans, and I'll assume to McDonald as well, to think that the next concussion might be the last one a la Paul Kariya. Luckily that won't be a concern anymore.
McDonald, 35, has decided to retire after 11 years in the NHL. Buried on NHL.com and not even listed on the Blues official website comes this retirement announcement:
"I'm fortunate to get out now," McDonald told Andy Strickland of the website TrueHockey.com. "I know I could play two or three more years and I love the game of hockey, but health-wise I know I shouldn't be playing."
McDonald spent the past six seasons with the Blues, and had 21 points in 37 regular-season games, but was held without a point in the Blues' first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Once that series ended, McDonald said he knew it was time to put away the skates.
"The last few years, too much of the focus became worrying about the next hit," McDonald said. "I was always thinking about it."
After Kariya, this makes the second Blue in recent memory to retire due to concerns about concussions. While I'm happy he's able to retire a member of the St. Louis Blues, I'd prefer it if it were on his own terms, not because he's worried about whether or not the next hit will irreversibly damage his brain.
Marc Savard and Chris Pronger already serve as warnings to the NHL on the dangers of concussions and the need to follow safety protocol. Unfortunately, the threat of injury will always be there in a game as face-paced and rough as hockey, and McDonald, like Kariya, recognizes that there's a very real chance that his career could be ended by a hit.
McDonald did not have a good series against the Kings, and many of us here at Game Time called him out on it. The series was rough and physical, and McDonald was invisible. This more than explains why.
Best of luck to McDonald in his future endeavors, and thanks for being a Blue.