Dion Phaneuf officially retires, says his biggest regret is « Salute-gate »

Dion Phaneuf officially retires from hockey, more than two years after his most recent game in the NHL.

The 36-year-old made the announcement in an interview with the Toronto Sun on Tuesday in which he said he was proud of his career.

“I’m proud to be the guy who dreamed of playing in the NHL when I skated on the outdoor rink growing up in Edmonton,” said Phaneuf. “You look at everything back at a time like this. I owe a lot to Brent Sutter for teaching me as a junior how to be a pro. I owe a lot to some of the amazing teammates I have had, like Jarome Iginla.

Phaneuf was selected by the Calgary Flames with the ninth pick in the 2003 NHL Draft. He entered the league a few years later with a 20-goal rookie season, earning him a third place for the Calder Trophy behind Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

A big, hard, physical boulder with a booming shot, Phaneuf established himself as a star defender early in his career. In 2007-08, Phaneuf scored 60 points for the Flames and finished second in the Norris Trophy vote behind Nicklas Lidstrom.

Phaneuf was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a successful contract with seven players in January 2010. Less than a year later, at just 25, Phaneuf was named Toronto captain, a role he he would assume for 397 games in six seasons. .

Phaneuf was captain of the Leafs during a tumultuous period in their history. The team only made the playoffs once during Phaneuf’s time in Toronto, during the 2013 season cut short by the lockout. That streak ended sadly when Toronto lost a 4-1 lead in Game 7 in the third period to the Boston Bruins.

While Phaneuf looks back and thinks « What if? » Regarding the lost lead in Boston, he said the biggest regret of his career came a year later.

In November 2014, the Leafs were hammered home by the Nashville Predators by a 9-2 score, one of the most unbalanced losses in Air Canada Center / Scotiabank Arena history. The team rebounded a few nights later with a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but chose not to salute the fans, which was a longstanding tradition in Toronto.

“It still bothers me,” Phaneuf said in a high-profile interview. “I was the captain. I didn’t handle it well. I should have been better. I needed to be. I take responsibility for it. If I could ever do it all over again, this is the one I would want. This is the one I thought about a lot.

Phaneuf would end up being traded to the Ottawa Senators in February 2016, as the Leafs were on the verge of turning things around with their young core. Phaneuf helped the Senators reach the Eastern Conference final in 2017 and ultimately ended his playing days as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

He currently resides in LA and hopes to eventually find a job in hockey.

The Maple Leafs will honor Phaneuf on Tuesday night before their game against the Predators.

While he may not have been the elite defenseman Brian Burke had hoped for when he made that trade with the Flames, Phaneuf can be proud of the way he handled the incredibly pressurized role of ‘be the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

« I would have liked to have had more success here, » he said. “I take responsibility for it. I was honored to be a captain. I left everything I had there.

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