"I guess I've known this day was here for a while," said Nolan, a five-time all-star and Olympic gold medallist with Canada. "It's tough to give it up when your heart and mind wants to keep doing it. My body can't keep up and I had to accept that."
Nolan, who lives in San Jose, played 18 seasons and scored 422 goals with 463 assists in 1,200 games. He played for the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and, most recently, the Minnesota Wild.
Nolan was with the Wild in 2009-10 and played in Zurich last year.
Nolan retired ranked 71st on the NHL's career goals list, 33rd in power-play goals and 100th in points.
The former Sharks captain, who turns 40 Sunday, was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft and reached the NHL after playing six games with the AHL's Halifax Citadels.
"To be a power forward in the NHL is like being a running back in the NFL," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "You take a lot of punishment and hand out a lot of punishment. To have played as long as he has, and at that level, is remarkable."
Nolan, who was born in Northern Ireland, played in 568 games over parts of eight seasons with the Sharks, his longest tenure of any team.
"I knew when I retired I would return to San Jose," Nolan said. "My kids were born here, my wife is from here and I love it here. I was very emotional when I was traded from here, but we all know it's not just a sport but a business too. I have so many memories here that I have to say the overall experience of playing here was awesome."
Nolan, who has several business ventures in the San Jose area, said he will spend time with his family before deciding whether he will return to hockey in some capacity.
Nolan appeared in 65 Stanley Cup playoff games with Nordiques, Sharks, Maple Leafs and Flames. He had 21 goals and 19 assists in those contests.
"Owen is a great teammate," said San Jose development coach Mike Ricci, who spent parts of 11 seasons with Nolan in Quebec, Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix. "A lot of people know how tough a skater he was but he also had great hands to go with it. He was great in tight, and had the finesse to go with the toughness. He was a unique player."
Nolan, who compiled 1,793 penalty minutes, is perhaps best known for his called shot in the 1997 all-star game. He was in alone on goalie Roman Turek and pointed to the top-right corner of the net before hitting the spot to complete a hat trick.
"I've seen the replays a few times and I always think, 'what was I doing?'" he said. "It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Luck was on my side and it just worked."
His finest NHL season was with the Sharks in 1999-00, when he set career-highs with 44 goals, 84 points, 18 power-play goals and finished fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player.