The 37-year-old center was not expected to open training camp Friday and the start of the regular season with the Red Wings, but he and his teammates were hopeful he would be able to return at some point this season.
But after a consultation last week in New York with Dr. Frank Camissa, who performed back surgery on Zetterberg on Feb. 21, 2014, the 15-season veteran and 2008 Stanley Cup winner came to the decision that he could no longer play.
“I think for me, I’ve kind of been living this for a while,” Zetterberg said in Traverse City, Michigan, where his former teammates hit the ice for the first time in training camp. “Starting January last year, I knew something was not quite right and [I] found a way to play through that season, but kind of mid-summer here … we hoped it was going to get a little bit better, and it kind of wasnt. So I went to see Dr. Cammisa last week and got the final result and nothing really had changed. so that’s kind of when it kicked in.”
“Obviously it is emotional. It’s been 15 years here and even though I knew that I was on my last couple of years, I wish that I could play a little bit longer.
“Being in one organization for the whole time, being named captain for this organization, i think that’s obviously something special. There’s a lot of things that will kick in later when you look back to it, but it’s just kind of surreal standing here and talking about being done playing.”
Zetterberg, who has been Detroit’s captain since the 2012-13 season, was second on the Red Wings with 56 points (11 goals, 45 assists) in 82 games last season, behind forward Dylan Larkin‘s 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists).
“Henrik has made a decision that he’s not prepared to taker the risk to play professional hockey anymore,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s got a degenerative condition in his back, and part of [that] is significant arthritis.
“Nothing can be done. No back surgery, no rehab, no more time off is going to have any positive impact, and if he plays professional hockey, it’s going to accelerate the degeneration, and if he does get a bad hit or something, he’s risking significant back surgery, and Henrik has decided his quality of life is more important.
“Basically were moving forward, and Henrik, it appears his career is over.”
Zetterberg, who was selected by Detroit in the seventh round (No. 210) of the 1999 NHL Draft, is fifth in goals (337), assists (623) and points (960) in Red Wings history, and his 1,082 games are sixth. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 after tying Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby for the playoff scoring lead with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists).
“I think he’s one of the greatest Red Wing players in our history,” Holland said.
Zetterberg has three seasons remaining on a 12-year contract signed Jan. 28, 2009.
After his 2014 back surgery, Zetterberg played 77 games in 2014-15 and has played all 82 games the past three seasons.