DETROIT – There wasn’t a day this past season that Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski didn’t find himself on the training table.
In that end, that’s what seemingly ended his NHL career.
Rafalski announced his retirement Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.
“This was probably the most challenging seasons of my career, physically, mentally and spiritually, but it was also the most rewarding,” Rafalski said. “The decision was made between myself and my wife approximately two months ago.
“We went through a long process of weighing different factors in our lives and at the end of the day it came down to priorities, with the top three priorities being serving God, serving my family and serving others,” Rafalski continued. “With hockey not being at the top, it’s time for me to move on.”
Rafalski, 37, had one year remaining on his contract at $6 million.
“The injuries took a toll,” Rafalski said. “There wasn’t a day this year that I wasn’t on the training table. That gets tiring. But at the same time the training staff did an excellent job. It played a role.
“I wasn’t able to skate the way I’d like to,” Rafalski added. “It made me adjust how I approach how I play the game. I’m still standing here, so that’s a good thing. Hopefully I’m standing here in another 10-20 years.”
In 2007, the Wings needed to replace Mathieu Schneider after he signed with Anaheim.
That offseason, Rafalski, a Dearborn native, signed a five-year, $30 million free-agent contract.
“He was so effective moving the puck,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He was always strong on the power play. He’s going to be sorely missed. He’s a great personality and a great guy in the room. He brought a lot of character to this team.
“I was shocked,” Howard said when he heard the news. “I was down in Miami on vacation when I heard Brian was retiring. I was very surprised.”
Rafalski won three Stanley Cups in his career, two with the New Jersey Devils and on in Detroit (2008).
“We just lost one heck of a hockey player,” Wings forward Kris Draper said. “That’s the selfish part in us, we wanted to have Brian Rafalski back for one more year playing because he’s a good player and has been a major part of our success.”