Kesler agrees his NHL career is over

Ryan Kesler is still recovering from left hip surgery he received in February and he agrees he will never play in the NHL again.

The 37-year-old also had the same surgery on his right hip on May 9, 2019.

“I tried to come back after the operation to my first hip,” said Kesler. I was working hard, doing rehab and skating, then my other hip gave way and it cut my momentum. Honestly, I’m still a long way from being able to come back to the game. I don’t think I’m going to go back to a level where I could play in the NHL again. I just hope I can reach a level that will satisfy me. « 

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Kesler spent 15 seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, but his last League game with the Ducks was in the 2018-19 season.

He still has a season to go under his six-year contract signed with Anaheim on July 15, 2015.

“I got to a point where, in the last few years, I hated playing hockey,” he added. Go to the arena, suffer, and then not be able to do what you usually do. Your mind wants you to do it, but you can’t. This is where I knew I had to press the reset button. I told myself I was going to try to come back and love hockey again. I got a taste for it again. I was trying to get back into the game, I was skating, and then I injured my left hip. This is where I told myself that I was not going to relive it all.

“I still skate three times a week to try to get back to a level that will satisfy me. But I am 37 years old. Even though my head tells me I can still play, I’m not going to make myself believe that I can compete in the League or be the player I was again. « 

Selected by the Canucks with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, Kesler has 573 points (258 goals, 315 assists) in 1,001 regular season games as well as 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 101 playoff games Stanley Cup playoffs. He won the Selke Trophy, awarded annually to top defensive forward, in 2011 and he also helped the United States win the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Kesler, born in Livonia, Michigan, brought his whole family back to the area so that he and his wife could be closer to their family.

“Our two families are from here,” he said. People don’t understand it, but when you play in the NHL you barely see your family. You see them once or twice during the season, then sporadically during the summer because you train full time. I really wanted my kids to grow up in a family environment and move out of California. That way we’re no longer a five hour flight from the family. « 

Kesler remains active leading his son’s Under-11 team for the Little Caesars hockey program in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He was also named a volunteer assistant coach with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) Under-18 team on Friday.

Kesler, who played with the NTDP between 2000 and 2002, lives about 25 minutes from USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, making it easier to get involved in his new role.

He mentioned that he will be working with the players a few days a week and that he will mainly focus on faceoffs, defensive zone coverage and shorthands.

“I can skate, I can teach drills and I can take faceoffs against the kids,” Kesler said. I’m much more functional now than when I had my two surgeries. But on the other hand, I can’t run or do anything that gives my hips a shock. Can I play with my kids, play basketball and do some jogging? Yeah, but I’m not going to play full court basketball. It sucks. I’m continuing to rebuild myself to – hopefully – eventually get to this, but the chances are slim. I have the body of an 80 year old person. « 

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