Left wing Paul Kariya, the Ducks’ first-ever draft pick in 1993 and first homegrown star, announced his retirement Wednesday because his many concussions leave him vulnerable to further brain injury.
Kariya, 36, scored 50 goals and 108 points for the Ducks in 1995-96 and 101 points in 1998-99. A dynamic skater with great skill, he left for Colorado after the team’s seven-game loss to New Jersey in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals but never won the championship. He finishes with 402 goals and 989 points in 989 games.
He took last season off to heal and hoped to play again — perhaps in Anaheim — but told the Globe and Mail newspaper Wednesday the risks were too great. He left with scathing words for the NHL’s weak punishment of blows to the head.
“The thing that I worry about is that you’ll get a guy who is playing with a concussion, and he gets hit, and he dies at center ice,” he said. “Can you imagine what would happen to the league if a guy dies at center ice?”
He also said to end illegal hits to the head, “I’m a believer that you don’t go after the employees, you go after the employers. … If you start at 10-game suspensions and go to 20, that sends a message to the players. But if you start fining the owners and suspending the coach, then it’s out of the game.”
Current Ducks center Todd Marchant also announced his retirement. In 18 seasons — the last six with the Ducks, including their 2007 championship team — he had 186 goals and 498 points in 1,195 games. He will stay with the club as a player development coach.
A swift skater and fine penalty killer in his prime, Marchant said he “knew it was time” to go when he could no longer break away from young opponents.
“It’s not an easy decision when you’ve been doing something you love since you’re 3 years old,” he said. “But I’m fortunate that I’m healthy and retiring on my own terms.”