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Column: Retiring Ryan Getzlaf is one of the mightiest Ducks of all

Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf warms up for the team's game against San Jose Sharks
Ryan Getzlaf, who holds the Ducks franchise records for games played, points and assists, will retire at the end of the season.
(Josie Lepe / Associated Press)
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From the time Ryan Getzlaf was 12 years old, through his standout junior hockey career and deep into his evolution into a first-line NHL center and Stanley Cup champion with the Ducks, he heard the same advice from nearly every coach: Shoot the puck more often. You’ve got a great wrist shot. Don’t always go with your instinct to pass.

Bruce Boudreau was among those who tried to change Getzlaf’s thinking. “Believe me, as coaches, there’s times during the course of the year we could wring his neck because he doesn’t shoot it,” Boudreau said during the Ducks’ Western Conference final playoff series against Chicago in 2015.

Getzlaf would listen, maybe take a few more shots than usual, and revert to his playmaking mentality. “The only people that don’t tell me are my linemates,” he joked a few years ago.

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His pass-first philosophy served him well during a Hall of Fame-worthy career that began in 2005 with the then-Mighty Ducks and will soon end with him owning the franchise records for games played, points and — of course — assists.

Surrounded by family, friends, and teammates past and present, the 36-year-old native of Regina, Canada, became emotional Tuesday while announcing he will retire after the Ducks’ home finale on April 24. Beset by injuries the last few seasons and fighting against the tide in a league ruled by young, speedy legs, he has produced three goals and 31 points in 49 games this season.

“I’ve always said I was going to let my body and mind dictate when I was going to retire,” he said during a news conference at Honda Center. “I remember talking to my buddies when I first came into the league. I thought that was going to be at about 26, so I’ve definitely overlasted what I thought I would.

“But that was kind of always the mind-set. The grind of everyday preparation gets harder and harder as you get older. I’ve created an atmosphere around me of support, a loving family that I like to go home to, kids I’d like to grow up playing with, not watch them play. It was a thing for me to step away from the game before those kinds of things happen where I’m unable to do some of that stuff.”

The Anaheim Ducks extended their winning streak to eight and picked up the 1,000th victory in franchise history with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals.

Nov. 16, 2021

Through 1,150 NHL games — all with the Ducks — Getzlaf has scored 282 goals and 731 assists for 1,013 points. His assist total ranks 51st all time among NHL players and fifth among active players. His point total ranks ninth among active players and 88th all time. He won Olympic gold medals for Canada in 2010 and 2014, the world junior title in 2005, and the World Cup of Hockey title in 2016.

He appeared in three NHL All-Star games and ranked in the top 10 in the league in assists seven times. He holds Ducks records for most assists in a season (66, in 2008-09) and most points by a center in a season (91, also 2008-09).

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He’s the last player with the Ducks from their 2007 Cup team. “He’s had an exceptional career. Look at his history, longevity, ability to hang tough,” said Randy Carlyle, who coached that team. “He somewhat changed his career in a lot of ways. He had to develop the defensive side of it to be as effective as he has been over the years. If you look at it the strength of his game, it was just his hockey sense and his ability.”

But Carlyle couldn’t resist mentioning one flaw. “He should have shot the puck more,” Carlyle said, laughing.

“That’s always been something I’d take a lot more pride in than any numbers, I think, is being here, being part of this organization forever.”

— Ryan Getzlaf

The Ducks, who have been struggling through a tedious rebuilding process, are about to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Getzlaf holds the franchise records for playoff games played (125), goals (37), assists (83) and points (120).

“I’m so happy for him,” said retired winger Teemu Selanne, who lost his franchise scoring record to Getzlaf last Oct. 31 when Getzlaf recorded his 989th point.

“First of all, I’m very proud of him for his great career with the same franchise. That doesn’t happen a lot these days. And obviously he has won everything in hockey and he’s a real champ. I know his passions for other stuff so I’m excited about his journey. I have known his plans a little bit and he’s going to be a very happy camper.”

Getzlaf was drafted by the Ducks in the first round and 19th overall in 2003, nine spots ahead of Corey Perry, who became a longtime linemate and lifelong friend. They were called “the twins” because of their connection on the ice and friendship away from the rink. Their collaboration ended in 2019, when the Ducks bought out Perry’s contract and he became a free agent, but the friendship survived Perry’s departure. He’s now with Tampa Bay.

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“We started together on this journey and it would have been great to finish this way, but our business is what it is,” Getzlaf said.

Cheering fans are seen behind an exultant Ryan Getzlaf after a goal.
Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf celebrates with fans after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators during Game 1 of the 2007 Stanley Cup finals.
(Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

Getzlaf plans to stay in Southern California. His wife, Paige, is from Coto de Caza and they’ve raised four children here. As his proud mom Susan noted, he has enriched his adopted home by participating in programs that helped kids learn to skate and by raising millions of dollars toward finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. “We loved being there for your journey. Now it’s time to shoot for the new goals and dreams as you enter the next chapter of your life,” she said.

This is one occasion he’s ready to shoot, not pass. He hopes to stay with the Ducks, though he’s not sure in what capacity. “I feel like I’ve been trying to get back to the Stanley Cup ever since I was there last,” he said, “and I don’t really feel like that journey is over yet as far as what I hope to do within the organization.”

It’s rare in the NHL’s salary-cap era for a player to spend 17 seasons with one team. But Getzlaf knew he belonged here, just as he knew he was a pass-first center. He did it his way, and he did it well.

VIDEO | 07:26
The Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf announces his retirement
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