Justin Williams, who has become known as “Mr. Game 7” in recent years, may have played his last NHL game.
The 37-year-old left-winger from Cobourg, Ont., is “stepping away” from the league after winning three Stanley Cups and playing 1,244 regular-season games over 18 seasons with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington and Carolina.
“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” Williams said in a statement released by the team on Monday. ”For as long as I can remember, my whole off-season until this point has been hockey and doing what was necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game.
Williams, who became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, collected 23 goals and 53 points last season before helping the Hurricanes reach the Eastern Conference final in their first post-season appearance since 2009. They went on to lose to Boston.
‘I’ve got to be all in’
“I’m going to take my time and make sure I make the right [decision], right?” Williams told reporters at the NHL awards media day in Las Vegas on June 18. “I’m not going to be good if I’m 85 per cent all in. I’ve got to be all in. That’s the only thing that’s fair to me, fair to the teammates, fair to everybody.”
Williams, whom the Flyers drafted 28th overall in 2000, has recorded 312 goals and 786 points in the regular season. He has added 40 goals and 101 points in 155 playoff contests, including seven goals and 15 points in nine Game 7 situations.
He won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and the Kings in 2012 and 2014. Last season, Williams was selected by his teammates as the winner of the Steve Chiasson Award, presented annually to the Hurricanes player that best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.
If he doesn’t [play] … we’ll move on and we’ll be all right.— Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour on Justin Williams
Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who golfed recently with Williams, said the player spent the off-season consulting with former players on the pros and cons of retirement.
“I have a pretty good idea where his head is and where his heart is,” Brind’Amour told the News & Observer newspaper last month. “He’s going to make a good decision … and it’s going to be the right one, whatever it is.
Added Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell: “We appreciate Justin’s honesty and openness throughout this process, and respect his decision. He’s been an important part of our team, but we did prepare our roster with the understanding that he might step away. We are confident in the group we’ve assembled.”
The Hurricanes open training camp on Sept. 12.