Rick Nash, the face of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the franchise’s first decade in the NHL, is retiring “due to unresolved issues from a concussion.” His 437 goals from 2002-03 through 2017-18 rank fourth in the NHL during that span.
Rick Nash during his final season in Columbus in 2011-12.|Getty Images
Rick Nash is skating away from hockey.
The 34-year-old left winger, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft, announced his retirement on Friday after 15 NHL seasons and 437 goals and 805 points in 1,060 games. Nash, a big-bodied power forward with deft scoring skills, represented Canada twice at the Olympics, winning a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 and striking gold again in Sochi in 2014.
According to a statement released by Top Shelf Hockey, which represents Nash, his retirement is directly related to a concussion from last March.
“Due to unresolved issues from the concussion sustained last March, Rick Nash will be forced to retire from the game of hockey,” the statement says. “Under the advice of his medical team, the risk of further brain injury is far too great if Rick returns to play. Rick would like to thank everyone who has supported him during this difficult time period.”
Nash finished off his career last season with the Boston Bruins, playing 11 games in the regular season and 12 playoff games, after being obtained in a trade-deadline deal with the New York Rangers. He spent nearly six seasons with the Rangers, making it to the Stanley Cup final in 2014 (losing to the Los Angeles Kings) and scoring a career-high 42 goals in 2014-15.
But it was with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who drafted him first overall in 2002, where the 6-foot-4, 211-pounder broke into the NHL and established himself as a star player and offensive force. As an 18-year-old rookie, Nash scored in his first game with the Blue Jackets on Oct. 10, 2002, and concluded his ’02-03 freshman season with 17 goals and 39 points in 74 games, finishing third in Calder Trophy voting. He quickly became the face of the franchise, scoring 30-plus goals seven times during his nine seasons in Columbus, including a still-franchise-record 41 goals – as a 19-year-old — to co-win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer.
The Blue Jackets, among many others, expressed their appreciation for Nash after the news of his retirement broke, tweeting out a video retrospective and the words, “Today we want to thank a #CBJ great for his contributions on and off the ice.” The team followed up with another tweet, linking to a story and saying, “He went on to play for the Rangers and Bruins, but Rick Nash will forever be a Columbus Blue Jacket.”
Nash’s impact in Columbus can be clearly seen in the team’s record book. He is the Blue Jackets’ all-time leader in games (674), goals (289), assists (258), points (547), even-strength goals (192), power-play goals (83), shorthanded goals (14), game-winning goals (44) and shots (2,278).
However, the Blue Jackets, who joined the NHL as an expansion team in 2000-01, struggled mightily during Nash’s tenure. They made the playoffs only once during his nine seasons with the club, getting swept in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. Nash, whose 437 goals from 2002-03 through 2017-18 rank fourth in the NHL during that span – behind only Alex Ovechkin (607), Jarome Iginla (451) and Patrick Marleau (438) — came under fire at times during his career for failing to meet expectations in the post-season. He had 18 goals and 46 points in 89 career NHL playoff games.
Eligible for unrestricted free agency when his contract expired at the end of last season, Nash decided to take some time away from the game and mull his future. He was still on the fence in October, when he spoke to The Athletic about his future. “I miss it, I love the game,” Nash said. “The game has been my whole life, so it’s been a hard adjustment to not show up for training camp, for fitness testing. It’s been really tough. But my family is what’s most important to me, and I have to get my health in the right spot before I figure out what my plans are, and I don’t know when that will be. There’s a chance I could get healthy, come back and be great. But there’s definitely a chance that I don’t.”