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Foot problems bring end to Forsberg's comeback

Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 9:56 AM / NHL Insider

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

Citing problems with his troublesome right foot, the 37-year-old forward announced his retirement Monday afternoon as a member of the Colorado Avalanche during a press conference at the Ridgeline Restaurant inside the Pepsi Center, ending his latest comeback attempt after just two games.

The Avalanche announced that it would retire Forsberg's No. 21 jersey during a ceremony next season, with details to be disclosed at a later date.

"The time has finally come," said an emotional Forsberg, who spoke with his fiancée, Nicole Nordin, next to him. "I'm retiring from the game of ice hockey. I've played hockey all my life, but I've come to the decision that I've played my final game. It's perfect for me to announce my retirement in Denver, as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

"One thing's for sure, I won't second-guess myself. I really tried and I tried and I tried. I'm really sure about the decision. I'm done, period. I can't do it."

"One thing's for sure, I won't second-guess myself. I really tried and I tried and I tried. I'm really sure about the decision. I'm done, period. I can't do it." -- Peter Forsberg

Forsberg made the decision Sunday during a discussion with Nordin after the Avalanche arrived home from a winless four-game road trip. He then called general manager Greg Sherman to set up a meeting at Sherman's home.

"It was not an easy decision, believe me," said Forsberg, adding he has no immediate plans but sounded interested in staying involved in hockey in some capacity. "The process was extremely tough throughout my career. I had 25 surgeries and I promised Nicole here that I would not put my health at risk anymore."

"We were proud to offer him the opportunity to come back and play for the Avalanche and certainly respect his decision," said Sherman. "We wish him all the best."

In a 3-2 loss to Columbus on Friday -- his first NHL game since the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- he had one shot and was a minus-2 in 17:38 of ice time. He had two shots and two minor penalties while playing 17:32 Saturday in a 5-3 loss in Nashville.

"The first game went actually so-so, but I had to take into consideration that it had been a few years since I played over here," Forsberg said. "After the game, I started to feel that my foot was slipping a little bit. In the second game it was becoming more evident that it was not going to work out. I had the brace and it felt good in practices. I thought it was good, that I could play with it.

"I was struggling there at the end of the game. I couldn't really do what I wanted to do on the ice. I had (retiring) in the back of my mind. I was not in a good mood that we lost again. I had a feeling after the game that maybe it's better to leave the game. We had a discussion in the morning. I said I can't protect myself. After the game I wasn't 100-percent sure.

"When we came home, I promised Nicole that I was not going to play. I couldn't defend myself on the ice."

Teammates were surprised when they learned the news early Monday morning.

"I thought he looked great," said Avs captain Adam Foote. "I thought he had the highest compete level on the ice in Columbus, for both teams."

Foote, who was a teammate with Forsberg when the Avs won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, said he and Forsberg talked on the flight home from Nashville and said he never got a feeling that Forsberg was considering hanging up his skates for good.

"We talked on the plane a lot on the way home after the back to back, had a long chat," he said. "That's why I'm surprised. He didn't give me an inkling that there was a problem."

"I thought the two games went well for him," said Avs coach Joe Sacco. "I know the second night probably didn't go as well as the first game, but back-to-back games, that's a tough situation for him.

"I couldn't (see if he was in pain). He played hard every time he stepped on the ice. Every shift he gave it his all."

Forsberg won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 1994-95 with the Quebec Nordiques, who moved to Denver before the following season and were renamed the Colorado Avalanche. He spent nine seasons with the Avalanche and helped the team win Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001.

After labor issues forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, Forsberg signed with Philadelphia -- the team that drafted him with the sixth pick of the 1991 Entry Draft -- and spent parts of two seasons with the Flyers. He was traded to Nashville late in the 2006-07 campaign, sat out most of the next season and signed in February 2008 with the Avalanche, with whom he played nine regular-season games and seven playoff games.

Forsberg's 755 points (217 goals, 538 assists) in 591 games place him fourth in Quebec/Colorado franchise history. Overall, he leaves with 249 goals and 636 assists in 708 NHL games, plus 64 goals and 171 points in 151 playoff games.

He retires fourth in scoring all-time among Swedish-born NHL players, behind Mats Sundin (1,349 points), Nicklas Lidstrom (1,090) and Daniel Alfredsson (1,023).

"When I look back, I'll be feeling pretty good about my career," said Forsberg, who also won Olympic gold medals for Sweden in 1994 and 2006. "I hope people here remember that when I walked out of the rink, I gave everything."

In a last-ditch effort to salvage his career, Forsberg arrived in Denver on Jan. 21 after the Avalanche agreed to let him practice with the team on a tryout basis. He signed a pro-rated $1 million contract for the remainder of the season Feb. 6.

"About six weeks ago I skated back in Sweden and I felt pretty good at the time," Forsberg said. "I think I owed it to myself to give it one more shot. I remember telling everybody that I didn't know how it was going to turn out, but we said we'd give it a try. After this past weekend, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to retire.

"I feel like this was the last time. I'm really happy that I got the chance from the Avalanche to come back here and try for the last time and knowing for sure that I'm not going to play anymore. Maybe I was a little selfish to come over, but in the back of my mind it feels good now. I feel like I'm ready to retire."

Forsberg, who remains as popular as any player in Avalanche history, had considered playing in Monday's home game against the Calgary Flames.

"It's very disappointing not to play a game here," he said. "I really wanted to come back and play the last 30 games here and maybe help the team in the playoffs. When I thought about it, I couldn't get on the ice here, skate around and have people expect me to be good and cheering and then I'd have to retire the next day.

"I couldn't do it. I also wanted to make the decision for the team so they could move on and start winning games."

Adding to Forsberg's frustration was the fact that his foot ailment never could be solved to the point where he could play at an efficient level. Aside from his numerous operations, Forsberg said he tried "at least" 200 pairs of skates in recent years in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

"The foot moves in the skate," he said. "I played with the brace and to keep the brace in place I had to tape it really hard, but it didn't really stay there."

Forsberg said the problem first surfaced during the 2002-03 season, when he led the NHL in scoring with 106 points and captured the Art Ross and Hart trophies.

"I was having the best season of my career and finally in the playoffs it just didn't work," he said of his foot. "I don't really know what happened. There was a two-week period there where it just didn't work anymore. After that, some games it was OK. It's been a problem for the past eight years.

"Sometimes I think I was lucky to be able to play without the problem until I was 30. It could have come earlier, so I was lucky that way. I feel like maybe the little kid that had some candy stolen from him. It feels a little sad that I have to retire without going my own way. I really wanted to come back and have a good year and play good and retire on my own terms."

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery