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Bryan Bickell of Hurricanes to retire from NHL

Carolina forward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell will retire from the NHL after playing in the final two regular-season games, he told on Saturday.

Bickell, who rejoined Carolina on April 3 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, has played in the Hurricanes' past two games.

"I've made the decision with my family that I'm going to call it quits, so it's just these last two games," said Bickell, who will play at home against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, FS-MW, NHL.TV) and at the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

Bickell, 31, said he did not plan to call a press conference.

Video: STL@CAR: Bickell gets an ovation in Carolina

Selected in the second round (No. 41) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2004 NHL Draft, Bickell played on Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2010, 2013 and 2015. He was traded to the Hurricanes on June 15.

Bickell began experiencing what he thought were symptoms of vertigo during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After feeling sick early this season, he went for testing and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"To be told that's what you're dealing with, knowing it affects your livelihood and what you love to do, it's not easy in so many different aspects," Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said. "Everybody can be a captain when the seas are calm, but I think when adversity hits and you have to deal with things that are out of your control, you learn a lot more about a person. The way Bryan has handled this as a person from Day One to the present is nothing short of remarkable."

Video: STL@CAR: Amanda Bickell on her husband's retirement

Bickell, who has received monthly treatments for the disease since November, played 10 games for Charlotte of the American Hockey League before returning to the Hurricanes. He said he was not at his best in his first two games back, against the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders. But after receiving treatment Friday, he hopes to have more energy for his last two games.

"As the weeks go on in the month, it's like running low on gas," he said. "You just kind of fade off. Some symptoms [have] come, but when you get treatment you feel energized and full of life. Hopefully it will bring a spark [Saturday] and [Sunday]."

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters held back tears when asked about Bickell after the morning skate. Peters coached Bickell for two seasons with Rockford of the American Hockey League, including in 2009-10, when Bickell scored 16 goals before joining the Blackhawks for their Cup run.

"You guys have [gotten] to meet him and know him. You know what he's all about," Peters said.

Peters tried to compose himself. He ended up walking away choked up, but not before saying, "He's a man's man and he's a pro's pro, and he's unbelievably brave."

Video: STL@CAR: Peters discusses Bickell's retirement

Factoring in Bickell's decision to retire was his struggle to play at the level he needed to be his best in the NHL.

"From where I was at my peak to where I am now, there's a difference in my game. I don't think I will ever get back to that point with the circumstances," he said. "For the last couple months, from where I was mentally and physically to where I am now, it's a big change. I'm just happy to finish up here and move on."

Bickell shared the news with his teammates Thursday. Francis said the Hurricanes will wear No. 29 stickers on their helmets for Carolina's final two games. Bickell will start each game, Francis said, and play net-front on the power play.

The Hurricanes announced Saturday that Bickell was selected by his teammates as the winner of the 2016-17 Steve Chiasson Award, given to the player who best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.

Earlier Saturday, Bickell and his wife, Amanda, participated in a walk outside PNC Arena to benefit multiple sclerosis research and were surprised when the entire Hurricanes team joined them before the morning skate, with the Carolina players wearing T-shirts printed with "Bickell Brave" on the front and uniform No. 29 on the back.

Tweet from @NHLCanes: [WATCH] @bbicks29 made plans to participate in this morning's #WalkMS, but he didn't expect his teammates to all show up. #BickellBrave

Bickell's career highlight came during the 2013 playoffs when he scored nine goals for the Blackhawks, including the tying goal with 1:16 remaining in the third period of Game 6 in the Final. Dave Bolland's goal 17 seconds later gave the Blackhawks the Cup.

"I'll have those memories rest of my life," he said. "It's a great memory. So many guys never get a chance to play in the playoffs, let alone win the Stanley Cup."

Bickell said he would be interested in a job in hockey after he takes some time off. But for now, he wants to make a few more memories.

"Hopefully we can fill the net up for the last home game for the fans," he said. "Hopefully I can get one for myself. You never know when the last one is. It would be special."

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