This NHL Captain Is Taking a Break From Hockey

Hockey is a physical sport that would take a lot out of anyone over the course of an 82-game regular season. There’s hitting, checking, and the occasional fight, especially in the NHL. In fact, the game is so physically taxing that Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams is taking a break from the league during the upcoming season. Here are all the details.

The Hurricanes’ 2018-19 season with Justin Williams

The Hurricanes went 46-29-7 last season, making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. They finished in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and claimed the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina made an extended run in the postseason, losing to the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Counting the playoffs, the Hurricanes played a total of 97 games last season — and Williams played in all of them. So you can imagine how much it took out of him and why he may want or need a break.

Justin Williams’ NHL career

The 37-year-old has played in the NHL since the 2000-01 season, and he has been an iron man in the second half of his career. In the eight seasons since 2011-12, Williams has played in all 82 regular-season games in five of the seasons. The right wing has participated in a total of 822 regular season games, totaling 11490.5 minutes on the ice; he has also competed in an additional 155 playoff games.

That’s a lot of playing time for Williams, who will turn 38 the day after the Hurricanes’ season opener. The Canadian has 312 career goals in the regular season and 786 total points. His postseason career adds another 40 goals and 101 points. Williams is also a three-time Stanley Cup champion, winning with the Hurricanes in 2006 and Kings in 2012 and 2014.

The Ontario native won the 2013-14 Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of that season’s playoffs. Last season, he was the oldest player in the league to score 20 goals and record 50 points. Williams was also the oldest NHL forward to average at least 17 minutes of ice time last season.

Time for a break

Earlier this offseason, Williams announced he is going to step away from the NHL and take a break. He said he has “felt unsure about [his] aspirations with regards to hockey” for the first time in his life. This indecision led him to ease up on his mental and physical commitments. Without that type of preparation, he explains, he’s “decided to step away from the game.”

Williams did not go so far as to call it a retirement. But he is a free agent as the 2018-19 season completed his contract with the Hurricanes. Williams’ announcement didn’t catch the Hurricanes off guard. This offseason, the veteran kept them in the loop.

Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell said the team appreciates Williams’ “openness throughout this process, and respect his decision.” Waddell said the Hurricanes prepared the roster “with the understanding that he might step away.” Williams has a wife and two children, who he will be able to spend more time away from hockey.