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Tuesdays With Hildy: Retire Gracefully or Hang On 'Till the End?

The recent return of Chris Chelios to the NHL, and the season ending injury to Doug Weight got me thinking - when's the appropriate time for a player to retire from the league? The answer they (and a lot of you) would say is "when they damn well feel like it." Others believe that when they finally hit the point where they can realize that their abilities are waning past the point of usefulness, well, they hang them up. Some guys hang around like a lingering flu, other guys are forced to retire, and others end their careers with a bad season and fade into the sunset of the KHL. Which is appropriate?

Chris Chelios, whose first hockey card was a daguerreotype, is 48 years old. Yes, by hockey standards, that is getting up there. I know that he has some absurd work-out regiment that keeps him in the condition of a man at least 15 years younger than he is. That's great, but realizing that you have to do this to keep up with the kids in the AHL, let alone the NHL, should be a red flag. If you are killing yourself daily just to be considered average (and that's really what he's been on the ice), perhaps it's not doing your career any favors. Do you want to be remembered for the Cups you've won and the All Star Games you've been to, or do you want to be remembered as that old dude who never retired even when he didn't contribute anything past "leadership" and "Cup experience" and "AARP discounts" and other intangibles like that?

Al MAcInnis and probably Doug Weight have had their careers cut short by injuries. Did Al have a few more years left? Maybe. Would any of you like to see him skating around on the ice, years past his prime, on the 3rd pairing or in the box? It's one thing for fans to remember a player in his prime, it's another thing for a player to wax all reflective and think he's still 25. Not saying Mac would do that (and I used him as an example because 99.999% of you - myself included - hate Chelios with a passion), but it's awkward to see. It's like your friend's mom. You know, the one who dresses like she's 25 because that's how she feels, yet all you see is sagging boobs, shellacked makeup, and just a sad old broad? That's Chris Chelios.

There are just some guys who need to know when to say when - the Blues only have one of those right now, and that's Darryl Sydor. It's hard to say goodbye to a game that you love so much, but there are other things you can do - management, coaching, running betting rings... there's growing old gracefully, and there's clinging to your youth. The latter's never attractive.