Kris Versteeg has officially retired from professional hockey at the age of 33, he announced in a statement on Tuesday. Here’s a look at his long journey through hockey, and how he became one of the NHL’s most beloved journeymen.
What a run it was. A kid from North Lethbridge who played on the streets every day, dreaming of playing in the NHL. I took a lot for granted in my time in the NHL. But the one thing I never took for granted were the relationships I made with my teammates and staff of the hockey clubs I played for.You can see Versteeg’s full statement HERE
Versteeg’s Junior Journey
Versteeg spent five years in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Kamloops Blazers and Red Deer Rebels from 2002-06. In Lethbridge, he played with future teammate Brent Seabrook, and scored 119 points in three seasons with the team. He was traded after the 2004-05 season to Kamloops where he played 14 games for the Blazers before he was traded to Red Deer, where he tallied 36 points in 59 games for the Rebels.
Heading to the Pros
The Alberta native was drafted 134th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2004. After the 2005-06 season in Red Deer, he reported to the AHL’s Providence Bruins where he played 13 games and scored six points.
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He followed that up with a small taste of the pros and a solid year in 2006-07 in which he played 43 games, recording 49 points. He was then traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Brandon Bochenski.
He finished the season in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals and scored 23 points in 27 games.
The Blackhawks then moved their affiliate to Rockford, where Versteeg spent his only season with the IceHogs tallying the highest total of PIMs in his career with 174 and scored 49 points in 56 games. He was called up by the Blackhawks at the end of that season, and played 13 games, scoring four points.
Versteeg officially made the Blackhawks roster in 2008-09, scoring 53 points in 78 games under new head coach Joel Quenneville. He followed up a strong regular season with an even better playoffs, scoring 12 points in the ‘Hawks run to the Western Conference Final.
He also had a solid sophomore campaign scoring 44 points in 79 games and recorded 14 points in 22 playoff games, capped off by a Stanley Cup victory.
I want to thank the Chicago Blackhawks’ entire organization, from top to bottom, especially including the fans. The 2010 Championship was the highlight of my career.Kris Versteeg
Following that Stanley Cup-winning season, Versteeg was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Bill Sweatt for Christopher DiDomenico, Phillipe Paradis and Viktor Stalberg. He only 53 games for the Maple Leafs in 2010-11, scoring 35 points before he was traded at the deadline to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2011 first-round and third-round pick.
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He played in 27 games for the Flyers that season, scoring 11 points and helping them to the playoffs, in which he scored six points in 11 games.
He was then traded in the 2011-12 offseason to the Florida Panthers for a 2012 third-round pick and a 2012 or 2013 second-round pick (Panthers’ choice). He laced up his skates with the Panthers for two and a half seasons.
His first season was very effective, scoring 54 points in 71 games before he was injured in his second season and limited to 10 games.
In 2013-14, he was traded back to Chicago with Phillipe Lefebvre for Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. He spent two more seasons in the Windy City, tallying 63 points and helping lead his team to two more playoff appearances, winning his second Stanley Cup in 2015.
He was traded again in the 2015 offseason to the Carolina Hurricanes with Joakim Nordstrom and a 2017 third-round pick for Dennis Robertson, Jake Massie and a 2017 fifth-round pick. He played just over half a season in Raleigh in 2015-16, scoring 33 points in 63 games, before he was traded at the deadline to the LA Kings for Valentin Zykov and a conditional fifth-round pick. This was the last time he was traded.
He played 14 regular-season games with the Kings, tallying five points and 5 playoff games, scoring two points.
After an attempted hiatus from the NHL, Versteeg signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames at the start of the 2016-17 season, his last stop in the NHL. He played in 93 games from 2016-18, scoring 45 points, but much of his second season in Calgary was cut short by a hip injury. In 2017, he played in four playoff games, scoring four points.
At the end of the season, Versteeg became a free agent and signed with Avangard Omsk of the KHL where he played 11 games before he headed to the SHL to play for Vaxjo HC, where he played 12 games.
In 2019-20, Versteeg returned to North America to play in six games for the Rockford IceHogs, coming full circle, before heading back to Europe to play in Slovakia for two games at Nitra HMC with his brother Mitch.
In his career, Versteeg played in 643 NHL games and scored 358 points (149 goals, 209 assists), including 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists) in 93 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
How Will Versteeg Be Remembered?
One of Versteeg’s most consistent traits was his willingness to lighten the mood. Whether commenting on Instagram photos or rapping at the Stanley Cup Championship parade, he always wanted to make people smile.
A high energy player on the ice, he often flashed his high-end offensive skill and played with toughness and tenacity, crucial for players who play through the injuries which he did often.
“I think the people that will remember me and were fans think of me as someone who tried to have fun while I gave everything I had,” Versteeg said in an interview with Blackhawks.com’s Chris Kuc this week. “I played with tenaciousness and that fear that small guys in those days had to have. If you were small in those days and you weren’t slightly crazy or tough or tenacious you would never have survived. I’m proud of where I grew up and the people who shaped me in order to have it.”
Best Versteeg Quotes
“I may never be one of the biggest names in the game but now it’ll go down in history as one of the misspells on the Stanley Cup so I’ll take it,” Versteeg told the Toronto Star after he discovered his name was spelled ‘Kris Vertseeg’ before it was corrected. “It’s just a perfect example of my life. Just something crazy and quirky that’s always happening to me.”
“I’ll coach my kids in hockey and then I’ll be probably going into TV. I’ll be the one with the microphone next, so watch what you say about me in the paper, eh? Cause I’m going to have the microphone next!”
What’s Next for Versteeg?
He said in his exit interview from the Rockford IceHogs that he would be open to continuing his career as an announcer:
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last year or so,” Versteeg said. “Once the dust settles, I think I’ll be able to see what I can do after. I would like to do broadcasting or something along those lines. I think that suits me the best. I would coach maybe when my kids are older. I won’t totally count out anything, but I do see TV as the lead thing that I would like to do. “
An outspoken player on many occasions, it makes sense that he would become an announcer as an outlet for his love of hockey, and many believe he will excel at it.
Versteeg had a storied journey through all levels of hockey, all over the world. A man who always spoke his mind and played his heart out, he will be missed on the ice.
After covering college and high school basketball for six years as a college student and after graduating for various outlets, I’ve turned to hockey the past couple years.
Most recently, I started the BTS Hockey Podcast, on which I interview players and dive a bit deeper into how they achieve the heights that they have and what their goals are.
My main goal is just to tell stories about people, and learn about them beyond just being an athlete.