Playing professional hockey for so many years and ending it with the Carolina Hurricanes has been a dream come true.
It is and will continue to be a special part of my life, but it’s time for me to move on and concentrate on my family and our family’s future.
I’ve had a wonderful career and I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to end it on such a positive note and end it with such a classy and well-respected organization as the Carolina Hurricanes.
Winning a Stanley Cup in 2006 is something I’ll never forget. Being able to take the cup to Camp Lejeune and then to our church in Cary will always be a huge memory to me and something that I’ll never forget.
As I continued to play through the years through all the highs and lows, wins and losses and even injuries, it has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. The people throughout the journey will always be special to me. Thank you to Mr. Karmanos and Mr. Rutherford for believing in me and having the trust to acquire me. Thanks to all my teammates I’ve played with, coaches, staff, trainers and all the Caniacs, you guys mean the world to me. Most importantly, thank you to my family, Barb, Amanada, Josh and Matthew, for sticking by me through the years and for your patience and support. And finally, thanks to the game of hockey. It’s been a great ride.
I made through it without any tears, and that was my goal.
JIM RUTHERFORD: Glen’s reached a lot of his goals in his career, and on behalf of the Hurricanes organization and myself, we thank you for a great career and a great contribution to our organization on and off the ice, and also thank your family who was a big part of the organization.
As a general manager starting in Hartford, this was the first transaction I made in trading for Glen Wesley and it was a big trade at the time and certainly a lot of people criticized what we had did, but in my opinion, in order to build a winning team and have a successful franchise, you have to build with character people. That was the step - to bring in a good player, a good defenseman with great character. The thing that made me feel so good about this ride with Glen was to see him hoist that Stanley Cup. That was his goal – to come and help this organization win the Stanley Cup, and we did.
Glen is going to stay with the organization. We’re fortunate that we have former players stay with our team, and Glen is going to be the Director of Development for Defensemen in our organization, really the same way that Ron Francis started and Tommy Barrasso. He’ll get started in the front office starting this year, and we’re very, very happy that he accepted that position. It’s going to strengthen our organization, and it means that we’re still going to have Glen around and this is where he’s going to make his home.
All the things I’ve said so far Glen knows, and I told him that, but what I’m going to say next is something that you all are going to hear at the same time as he does. We have made a decision for his contribution in the organization and what he’s done for us that we’ll have a night to honor Glen and retire his jersey. We’re very proud that we were part of your playing career and we’re proud that you’re still part of our organization, and that’s the least we can do to honor you and raise that jersey to the rafter with Ron Francis.
Q: Glen, you’re the last of the Greensboro players. Does it seem like 10 years, and can you talk about helping to build hockey in this area?
WESLEY: It seems like 30 years to me now. (laughter) It was a long time ago. I remember talking to Jim way back in the Greensboro days, and I felt like from playing in a big city when I came from Boston that it was just kind of like a regular drive going from Greensboro and back, because some days in Boston it would take an hour and 10 minutes getting home or just getting into the rink in rush hour. It’s been a process, and with saying that, I think we’ve continued to grow and develop the game here, and I think it’s probably been the best that it’s been, and hopefully we can continue to grow the game obviously with the players that are on the ice and with management and I think all the right things are in place here. Hopefully we can attain that goal of winning another Stanley Cup here.
Q: Glen, when did you decide to retire for good? Was there a moment when you knew it was time, or was it something that evolved more gradually?
WESLEY: At my exit meeting with Jim, I had mentioned to him that I was ready to hang them up then, and he actually told me to take my time on it and take as much time as I needed. I felt that was probably good and that it was probably a little bit premature, but the more I stuck around with the family and so forth, I thought it was in the best interests of myself to make that decision, and I think it was the best one that I could make.
Q: You said you made it through here without tears, but were there tears with the family as you were arriving to this decision?
WESLEY: Actually, no. (laughter) I was telling Jim the other day that my kids all wanted me to continue to play and they were actually wanting me to play, and I appreciated that, but I had other thoughts that it was time for me to stop.
Q: They didn’t want dad around full time?
WESLEY: I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask. I’ve got one of them over there so you’ll have to ask him, but it’s going to be fun to spend a little more time with them around the house. Maybe they’ll kick me out once in a while.
Q: Jim, can you put into words how hard it is to play 20 years in this league, especially as a defenseman with the dedication that it takes?
RUTHERFORD: Well you’re asking the wrong guy, he played 20, I didn’t (laughter). Anybody that can play in this league for 10 years to me is very special. It’s a tough sport, you’ve got to prepare yourself to play. Basically it’s all year round for the players now, and for Glen to compete at the level, and really he was the anchor of our defense from the time he came here and one of the leaders in our room and one of the top defensemen year after year. 20 years of that is a very special career.
Q: What made him a good defenseman?
RUTHERFORD: I think that it starts with preparation and the confidence that you have, but Glen for the most part was put in a position to play against the other teams’ best players. I don’t think you judge players based on who gets the most goals and the most points. His contribution game in and game out to me was just as valuable as the guys who were scoring the winning goals and always in key situations. Right through those two runs to the Stanley Cup Finals, he was one of the big difference-makers to get us that far.
Q: Wes, you’ve had similar decisions to make the last two summers, what was it this summer that changed?
WESLEY: I really don’t want to elaborate other than it was a family decision and I’d like to keep it at that. For me, I put my family first. I could have played, but I think for selfish reasons it was time to look the other way and give them something back in return.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve played 20 years in one of the toughest leagues in the world, and does it ease the transition away from the game to still be involved?
WESLEY: Yesterday when I sat down and I tried to look at a putt and my knees actually felt like I played 20 years. My body feels healthy and I feel that was one of the reasons that I still wanted to be able to go out healthy. My body feels good obviously. One of my biggest fears was always my neck from my injury from having the surgery, but in saying that I’m still healthy and I feel good, and I’m going to continue being able to do some things with my kids that I can continue to do
Q: Kind of the second part of my question, would it have been harder to quit cold turkey rather than being able to still be involved here?
WESLEY: Yeah, I’d say so. Like I said, I’m going out on my own terms. I feel good about the decision, it’s not a decision that I had to make right away, and I was very fortunate that Jim gave me plenty of time to reflect and make this decision today and not have a two-week window as opposed to having three months to make this decision.
Q: What milestones stand out as you think back over your career? It seems like back in the Greensboro days you scored your 100th goal, didn’t you?
WESLEY: Um, I think so. (laughter) I believe so, but obviously the biggest one is obviously winning the Stanley Cup and seeing the fans tailgating. The support we had from the community, from the mountains all the way to the beaches and even here was absolutely incredible, and I think that’s a highlight for everybody. I think as a player here and I think for the organization, that sticks out for everybody.
Q: A lot of the guys have settled down here. Ron lives here now and some of the other guys have come back, what is it about this area that makes you want to make it your home? What do you like about it here?
WESLEY: Golf. (laughter) I think it’s a great place to raise a family, and I think you can ask any player on the team if they enjoy playing here and I think we’ve built this organization and team for guys that not only want to play here, but this is a great place to live also. Speaking from the guys from the outside who get a chance to play here and realize the grass may be greener on the other side, it doesn’t happen. We’ve got a great thing here, and with the beach and the mountains I think this is a great state. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play here, especially with the fan base that we’ve grown here in the past few years.
Q: Is there more golf in your future?
WESLEY: Maybe a little bit more, but I’m going to try and get out more than I probably did in the past, yeah.
Q: In your new job, if there’s one point or two points that you want to stress to younger players, what would they be?
WESLEY: I think the biggest thing you have to learn, not only as a defenseman but as a player, is consistency. That’s one of the things that I tried to accomplish every night. It’s not going to happen every night, but I think as a young player that grows into a steady player and an impact player, you need consistency night in and night out. I think that’s what separates players from making that jump to juniors or college to playing pro, and I think that’s a difficult thing to do and realize until you get to that point.
Q: Who are some of the guys that helped you become the defensive player that you were for 20 years?
WESLEY: I learned actually from a great defenseman – Ray Bourque. He kind of took me under his wing at a very young age when I was 18, turning 19 years old. I give him a lot of credit for bringing me along and showing the things that I need to do on and off the ice and taking me aside in practice and teaching me little things. He was a good teacher.
Q: Jim, you mentioned Glen being the anchor for the last couple of years, and since he got here, really. The last couple of years he played some of his best hockey – he’s leaving not playing six minutes a night but playing 12-14 minutes a night and contributing. How does this factor into your decision coming up with free agency?
RUTHERFORD: Well the other thing I didn’t tell you is that the reason we kept him is because maybe we’ll talk him into playing if we need him in December. (laughter) But obviously it leaves a big hole in our team, and we have all our hockey people in this week, we’re meeting, we know that we have to address our defense and we’re going to have to rebuild it. That’s what we’re trying to do now – put together a plan. It’s not that easy. There was a general manager’s meeting recently and half the teams were running around looking for defensemen. Glen leaving leaves a big hole there.
Q: Glen, did you talk to Ron about your decision?
WESLEY: He was in the meeting with Jim when I spoke to him at the exit meetings, and he was trying to tell me not to retire either. As a player I think selfishly you want players to continue to play. He respected my decision and I think it all comes down to your personal decision. I think you respect people for your decisions and what they offer, but Ronnie was a great player to look to, and now he’s obviously in management and he’s continuing to learn every day and I think that he’s going to do well as an assistant general manager.
Q: Do you have any long-term goals in terms of management or administration?
WESLEY: I think I’d like to be general manager (laughter)
RUTHERFORD: You can have it. (laughter)
WESLEY: No, but this is a great opportunity for me and I appreciate the opportunity that Jim has given me. Not too many players get an opportunity to step in right away and really do something that they can obviously stay involved but have some responsibility. The more I thought about this with the responsibility role of seeing defensemen not only drafted but players that we have drafted, to be able to possibly see them go out and see their development and possibly maybe even training camp, to give them some help in certain areas, I think I can do that. I see the game, I think very well, and if this is something that I really enjoy, there could be some more responsibility for me and I’ll see how much I like to do that. It’s something that I can learn and grow into and hopefully take more responsibility with the office staff.
Q: Did you watch the Wings celebrate last night?
WESLEY: I was actually writing out this. (holds up written speech to laughter) But I did sit down for the last four or five minutes to see when they hoisted it. It’s always special to see certain guys who have never won and just their faces and all the hard work that they do put in.
Q: I wondered if when Niklas Lidstrom handed the cup to Dallas Drake if you had any flashbacks.
WESLEY: I did. It’s a special feeling. It’s hard to explain until you do that. I waited a long time and it’s special to be able to do that and it’s very difficult to do. You don’t realize it until you do it, but so many things have to happen for you to win it, numerous things from the goaltending to the specialty teams to staying healthy and getting the right calls, the right bounces, and all those things add up to winning championships.