Carolina Hurricanes, Justin Williams

Hurricanes’ Justin Williams Takes a Break

It is the beginning of September and the Carolina Hurricanes are getting ready for the prospect tournament, training camp and life without Justin Williams. Time does not stand still and it won’t in 2019 for the Hurricanes as today they announced Williams is taking a break from hockey. The word “retire” was absent from his statement, however.

In a statement released by the Hurricanes, Williams said, “This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey. 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.”

Juuse Saros, Justin Williams
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros and former Carolina Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Williams also said, “It’s important to me that the focus of attention is on the current, very talented group the Carolina Hurricanes have assembled, as they prepare to build on the momentum and growth we established last season.”

Waddell Weighs In

The Hurricanes’ statement also quoted team President and 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.”

What Williams Said in May

After losing in the Eastern Conference Final to the Boston Bruins, the Hurricanes held their end-of-season interviews with the media on May 20. At the center of all of the activity was Williams, team captain, and at that time a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. He was at the end of his two-year, $9 million contract with the Hurricanes.

Justin Williams
Former Carolina Hurricane Justin Williams (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Holding court with the gathered media in front of his locker, Williams was asked directly if he had made any decisions regarding whether or not he would continue to play or retire. Williams paused and said,

I haven’t made a decision, no. Yet. You don’t do those things irrationally. You put thought into it, you put perspective. You find out inside whether you have the full capability emotionally and physically to do it.

Williams has always been known as an effective motivator as well as a somewhat cerebral character. His answers to questions during postgame press conferences are typically thoughtful, more than the bullet-point type answers that often are given by players. Hockey does not encourage players going off-script when engaging the media.

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Justin Williams of the Carolina Hurricanes
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 24: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Justin Williams #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes shake hands after the Hurricanes defeated the Capitals 4-3 in the second overtime period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Williams does not fit in that mold. He continued to answer the question about his future, saying,

I put everything I had into it this year. If I have everything again, then I’ll be here. But, I haven’t gotten that far yet. That’ll probably be a little way down the road before that decision’s made.

Translation: At season’s end Williams was tired. He had left it all on the ice as the Hurricanes’ captain and wanted some time to rest and reflect. And now, here in September, he has decided he just doesn’t have enough left to keep going at the start of this season.

Williams has had quite a career. The team statement noted the following: Williams, 37, has recorded 786 points (312 goals, 474 assists) in 1,244 career NHL games with the Hurricanes, Flyers, Kings and Capitals. He is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, winning titles with Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014 and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014.

Williams had 23 goals and 30 assists last season, and at age 37 has shown that he still has game. But, he currently does not have the heart for another season-long campaign. Looking between the lines the word “retire” is not in his announcement. Perhaps the Williams saga has not seen its final act.

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