The long goodbye
For even the greatest of sports legends, there comes a point when it’s finally time to call it a day. But because it’s obviously hard to say goodbye to the fame, fortune and fan adulation that comes with the job, many pro athletes simply hang around too long, their glory days but a distant memory.
Football’s Brett Favre, hockey’s Gordie Howe, baseball’s Pete Rose, basketball’s Michael Jordon and, perhaps the most egregious case, boxing’s Muhammad Ali all ended their glorious careers on prolonged – and depressing – downswings, leaving us with a bad taste in our mouths and the uncomfortable feeling that these guys simply hung around too long.
Oddly enough, the NHL has three older players (approaching Zoomerhood!) who, despite their advanced age and the wear-and-tear of lengthy careers, aren’t embarrassing themselves on the ice. In fact, they’re still playing at the top of their game. Let’s take a look at how some of hockey’s elder statesmen are keeping up with the youngsters.
Martin Brodeur, Age 40
Despite a great deal of chatter in last year’s playoffs that Brodeur was finally going to hang up his pads, the New Jersey Devils are thankful he decided to return for a 20th season. And he’s off to another great start, second overall in goalie wins and sporting a respectable 2.27 GAA. The all-time NHL leader in wins and shutouts, it looks like he could keep going for another year or two. He’s even got two of these!
After a three-year absence playing in Russia, the classy Czech-born right-winger returned to the league last year and showed he still had it – scoring 19 goals for the Philadelphia Flyers. He signed with the Dallas Stars this year and is tied for first in team scoring (including this recent beauty) with Jamie Benn, who’s 17 years his junior. In Calgary this year, he received this hilarious and well-deserved honour from the fans. No wonder, with an eye-popping 667 career goals, Jagr is the active leader in this department, barely ahead of the next man on this list.
Teemu Selanne, Age 42
An irrepressibly cheerful Finn, Selanne is the league’s oldest player and sits just two goals behind Jagr on the career list. Suiting up for the Anaheim Ducks in his 20th season, Selanne leads his team in points, which prompted Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley to search for comparisons, finally likening him to the backwards-aging movie character Benjamin Button. “Selanne is going the wrong way. It seems he’s getting younger year by year.” His current coach, Bruce Boudreau, is equally awed: “For his age, he’s the best athlete in the world.”