ST. LOUIS -- To truly appreciate what Barret Jackman meant to the St. Louis Blues, one only has to read the list of Blues alumni present when he announced his retirement from the NHL on Tuesday.
Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis and Bernie Federko were among those to join the entire St. Louis roster to watch one of the all-time Blues call it a career.
Jackman, 35, who played 12 of his 13 NHL seasons in St. Louis, was accompanied by 6-year-old son Cayden and 4-year-old daughter Makena in signing a one-day contract that allowed him to officially retire with the Blues.
"It's a huge honor to be able to stand up there for the old swan song," said Jackman, who was selected by the Blues in the first round (No. 17) of the 1999 NHL Draft.
After the final year of his contract was bought out this offseason following one season with the Nashville Predators, Blues owner Tom Stillman and general manager Doug Armstrong made the decision to sign Jackman to the one-day contract.
"It's just an unbelievable opportunity that the Blues and Mr. Stillman and Doug Armstrong gave me to retire in the same place where my whole career started," Jackman said. "This is overwhelming, to have so many alumni and all of the players behind me; I'm happy I didn't have to stare them in the face. It probably would have been a lot harder if I had to look at those guys the entire time."
Jackman, who won the Calder Trophy in 2003, had 186 points, a plus-54 rating and 1,102 penalty minutes in 876 regular-season games (803 with the Blues); he and Federko are the only players in Blues history to appear in 13 seasons with the organization.
"One day, I'd say, 'Yeah, I'm done.' The next day, I'd say, 'No, I'm going to wait for an offer,'" Jackman said. "I just told my agent, 'Don't beg to get me a job. If somebody calls, great. But I'm not going to beg.' He called me with a couple different [offers of a professional tryout contract], different inquiries. I told him, 'I'm done. I'm at peace with it.' I've had a great career. I've had a lot of great memories. I was ready."
A native of Trail, British Columbia, Jackman came into the League as part of a Blues defense that included future Hockey Hall of Fame members MacInnis and Pronger.
Jackman made his NHL debut on April 14, 2002, at Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings. MacInnis said there was no grooming Jackman, his defense partner, because Jackman already had that "it" factor.
"They were in him from Day One," MacInnis said. "That very first game in Detroit set the tone for what was ahead for him in his career, his longevity. The character that he showed in that first game, poise, the compete level, you can't groom that. It's in you. He wore his heart on his sleeve. No one played the game with probably with some of the toughest injuries you can play with, played hard each and every night. That's just Barret. That's just the way he is.
"His high character, his high compete level, they're the guys you go to war with, those are the guys you win with."
"When you think of his name, you think of the passion and the toughness that he played with," Pronger said. "... Back then he was still very young. Everybody leads in their own way. I've played with a lot of guys that are the strong, silent type. [Jackman] was one of those guys that leads by example, played the game hard, and he wanted you to follow that lead."
Jackman earned the respect of his Blues teammates as he became the veteran in the locker room. He took T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, to name a few, under his wing.
"I probably would have gotten into some more trouble in my younger years if it wasn't for him, but I think it's great," said Oshie, now with the Washington Capitals. "Pretty respectable by St. Louis to let him retire there. ... He's the ultimate teammate. I can't think of too many better than him."
Oshie and Berglund each was a first-round draft pick by the Blues (Oshie No. 24 in 2005; Berglund No. 25 in 2006), and Jackman naturally became a role model.
"I remember when I first came up and I was really nervous and I was basically almost scared," Berglund said. "I came over as a really young guy and never been in the [United] States before. He came up to me and shook my hand and first of all, he looked terrifying, really terrifying, but he was just so nice.
"He and Jenny (Jackman's wife) have been some of my closest friends here. They would always be there for you. He's meant so much for me, and I'm going to miss him a lot."
Jackman ultimately wants to get back into the game in some capacity.
"I think so. I already kind of miss being around the guys in the locker room and being around the team atmosphere," Jackman said. "I'm going to take some time and enjoy my family and get to do some things I haven't done in the past. In a couple months, I think definitely I'll look at some opportunities and see what's out there."