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Holik reflects on his career with the Devils

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Holik closes out an outstanding career with the Devils that included three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals.
email – Bobby Holik has 747 points and two Stanley Cup rings to show for a National Hockey League career that 1,314 games and nearly two decades.

But through all the battles in which he helped to shape the Devils’ championship legacy, what Holik will remember most about his 18 NHL seasons was the chance to compete every day. Now he’s set to move on to the next stage of his life. News of his retirement was first reported Saturday by the New York Post.

Holik hoists the Stanley Cup in 2000.
“I believe that every day I had a chance to skate in practice or during a game was a highlight,” Holik said Tuesday on NHL Live with Rob Simpson and Billy Jaffe. “Because if you only play for the glory days of when you win a championship, they’re few and far between. No matter how many you win, it’s only very few.

“I played for the feeling I had when I just stepped on the ice, whether it was in practice competing and getting better, or in games competing against other teams.”

Drafted 10th overall by Hartford in 1989, Holik was a Whaler for two seasons before he was acquired by the Devils on Aug. 28, 1992. New Jersey shipped out Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich, and received Holik along with the 1993 draft pick that was used to select Jay Pandolfo.

Holik spent a decade in New Jersey that included Stanley Cup championships in 1995 and 2000. Late in the 1993-94 season, he began centering a trio with Mike Peluso and Randy McKay that came to be known as the “Crash Line.” The next season, the Devils swept Detroit to capture their first title.

“The first (Cup), we put the organization on the map,” Holik said. “It all turned around when Jacques Lemaire showed up as the head coach in 1993. We started going in the right direction, and that was our first mark on hockey history.”

Holik scored 20-or-more goals six times in his first stint with the Devils, including a career-high 29 in 1997-98 when he led the team in points for the second straight year.

New Jersey made back-to-back Finals appearances in 2000 and 2001, beating Dallas to win the first Stanley Cup of the new millennium, then losing to Colorado in seven games the next year.

“The second (championship) was to prove to the League and the hockey world that we belonged up there, that we were a championship team,” Holik said.

Holik ranks as one of the greatest Devils of all time. The native of Jihilava, Czech Republic is seventh on the club’s list of games played (786), third in goals (202), ninth in assists (270), fifth in points (472), third in game-winning goals (43), ninth in power play goals (44, tied with Petr Sykora) and third in shots (2,046).

He made consecutive All-Star Game appearances in 1998 at Vancouver and 1999 at Tampa Bay.

After departing New Jersey for stops in New York and Atlanta, Holik returned last summer for his 11th campaign in red and black.

He collected four goals and five assists in 2008-09, and missed 18 games with a broken pinkie finger. He contributed an assist in three playoff appearances as the Devils lost to Carolina in a seven-game Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

“I really enjoyed my year back,” he said. “The season didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, but it was very much a personal decision, in a sense. It had nothing to do with hockey because I believe I could still be playing if I really wanted to. It had everything to do with the lifestyle and having the opportunity to go home and just be home. I’ve done it long enough."

Holik continued: “I feel healthy, as healthy as a 38-year-old player can feel, but that had nothing to do with it. Not that I didn’t want to play hockey anymore, it’s that I wanted to be home with my family more.”

Holik was a throwback whose approach to the game was as old school as the all-wood Sherwood stick he used for much of his career.

“Retirement couldn’t have come at a better time because I was running out of them,” he said. “They don’t make them anymore.”

His 6-4, 235-lb. frame gave him a size advantage along the boards and in the faceoff circle, and his unique demeanor made him one of the game’s most colorful personalities. Never one to shy away from sharing his opinion, Holik said he always carefully considered his choice of words.

“I might sometimes say things that make people go, ‘Whoa,’ but it’s all well thought out,” he said. “I don’t just run my mouth to listen to myself speak. I’m very analytical and I take my time to think before I say something.

“And yes, sometimes people get offended or it just doesn’t come out right, but that’s how I feel, that’s what I think about the event or the situation at the moment and, as time goes by, it might change, but I don’t ever regret what I've said or what I’ve done because that’s not the way I live my life or played my career.”

Holik made his decision during the season after discussing it with his wife. He kept his intentions private so as to avoid creating any distractions for the team. Now, with his playing days behind him, Holik plans on keeping busy and spending more time with his family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“There’s a lot of things,” Holik said of his to-do list. “Maybe learn another language, maybe read books that I haven’t had a chance to read. There’s a 1,000-page book – Winston Churchill’s biography – so I’ve been saving that. But the days are so long in Wyoming, that I’m going to have to wait for the long nights in the wintertime.

"Just being home and doing things that normal people do.”
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