Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams has accomplished just about everything one can in the National Hockey League. He has been a part of three Stanley Cup Championship teams while winning a Conn Smythe Trophy with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 and earning the nickname “Mr. Game 7” for being clutch when the pressure is on.
Now, the 37-year-old needs to take some time away from the game as he announced he will not be joining the Hurricanes for the opening of their training camp later this month.
Williams Needs Personal Time Off the Ice
“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” said Williams in an official statement on Monday. “For as long as I can remember, my whole off-season until this point has been hockey and doing what was necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game.
“It’s important to me that the focus of attention is on the current, very talented group the Carolina Hurricanes have assembled, as they prepare to build on the momentum and growth we established last season.”
Williams has not missed a singled game during his second stint with the Hurricanes over the last two seasons. He has 39 goals and 104 points while playing in all 164 regular-season games. He had four goals and seven assists in Carolina’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past spring.
His 305 points have him ranked seventh in Hurricanes team history (since they relocated from Hartford) in scoring. He is one of just nine players in NHL history to score 100 goals and win a Stanley Cup with two different franchise in his career.
The Hurricanes’ front office is being very supportive of their veteran captain’s decision.
“We appreciate Justin’s honesty and openness throughout this process, and respect his decision,” said Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell. “He’s been an important part of our team, but we did prepare our roster with the understanding that he might step away. We are confident in the group we’ve assembled.”
Carolina Will Miss Their Veteran Leader
The Hurricanes will not only miss his offensive production on the ice, but they will also miss his leadership skills as well. Williams won the Steve Chiasson Award for the 2018-19 season, which is awarded to the player “that best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game,” as voted on by the team.
This news comes as a bit of a buzzkill after the season the Hurricanes are coming off of. They became the darling underdogs of the league thanks to their talented young core and their affection of postgame celebrations. They sold tens of thousands of “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts after Don Cherry criticized their celebrations.
Today’s announcement is not an official retirement, so the window is open for a return at some point down the road. With Williams currently without a contract, there is no guarantee that if and when he does decide to play again it will be with the Hurricanes.