VANCOUVER - Derek Dorsett said the hardest part of accepting his NHL career has ended because of a neck injury was seeing his Vancouver Canucks teammates take the ice without him.
Dorsett, a forward in the League for 10 seasons, thought he had a handle on the emotions of being told last week that bulging disks above and below where he had cervical spine fusion surgery last December made it too dangerous to continue playing. But when he watched the Canucks hit the ice before honoring forward Daniel Sedin on Thursday for reaching 1,000 NHL points, Dorsett struggled to keep those emotions in check.
"I was waiting down by the tunnel and seeing the guys going out I got emotional knowing that I wasn't going to go it to battle with those guys," Dorsett said Wednesday, his voice wavering slightly. "That's when it kind of hit me. I got it together and then when Danny looked at me and kind of seemed surprised, that's when I got a little emotional, but I tried to keep it together."
Dorsett, 30, held it together again when he met the media Wednesday for the first time since announcing his career was over six days earlier, hesitating only when he recalled his surprise appearance to honor Sedin.
Dorsett said having two young sons will help ease the transition to being a former player.
"My boys have made it a lot easier going home and being able to hug them and play with them," Dorsett said. "In the long-term aspect, your health is everything. That's why I know I have come to peace with it. It wouldn't be fair to me or my kids if I couldn't be healthy enough to enjoy what this next chapter of my life is going to bring."
Video: WSH@VAN: Dorsett tucks one home on wraparound
It was easier to close the hockey chapter because of how he played at the end. Dorsett had nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 20 games this season, and played his 500th NHL game Oct. 17, a milestone he never dreamed of when he went undrafted into junior hockey.
"I'm glad I can go out playing some of my best hockey," Dorsett said.
Dorsett had 127 points (51 goals, 76 assists) and 1,314 penalty minutes in 515 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Canucks. He listed the highlights as making the NHL after being picked in the seventh round (No. 189) of the 2006 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets, meeting his wife in Columbus, making it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Rangers in 2014, and playing in a Canadian market with the Canucks.
"That I played the game hard, honest, that I showed up every night and did what I could to help my teammates and teams win," Dorsett said when asked how he wanted to be remembered.
"There has been a lot of ups and downs but a lot of fun times, a lot of memories. Those are the memories I will cherish. Hopefully I can share them with my kids around a bonfire."