That said – you’ve had one hell of a career Raffy.
News broke yesterday that the 37 year-old Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski is set to announce his retirement tomorrow with one year still left on his contract after 11 NHL seasons; after playing in his final playoff run without an ACL in his right knee (according to reports).
For those outside of Detroit and New Jersey Rafalski may not be as well known as he lived under the shadows of Scott Stevens and of course Nicklas Lidstrom though he was an accomplished defenseman in his own right.
A Michigan native Rafalski played in the USHL before he spent four years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison being undrafted by the NHL after graduation he headed overseas not wanting to give up on his passion.
In 1995-96 Rafalski played with Brynas IF in the Swedish Elite League then spent time in Finland playing for HPK and HIFK. During his last season in Europe Rafalski was voted by fellow players to win the Kultaninen kypärä (fellow winners include: Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Ville Leino and fellow Michigander Tim Thomas) for best player (he was also the first non-Finn to win the award).
It was 1999 when Rafalski made his NHL debut at 26 as a rookie with the New Jersey Devils.
Soon paired with then Devils captain Scott Stevens Raffy lead all rookie defenseman with a plus/minus 21 and won his first of three Stanley Cups.
Opening day of the 2007 Free Agent Frenzy would see Rafalski come home. Signing a five-year $30 million contract with Detroit he would score the game winning goal over rival Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic.
Rafalski represented the Unites States at both the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics where he brought home silver medals (he was also on the 2006 Olympic team). In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Rafalski was named an Alternate Captain putting up one of the best performances of his career in the tournament. He finished third in scoring and first for defensemen and named to the Olympic All-Star team.
Brian Rafalski remains one of the top Americans to ever play the game.
*side note: The Red Wings (now without Rafalski) will face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday Sept. 22 in London, Ontario at the John Labatt Centre.
UPDATE: The Red Wings have announced a press conference for 11:00 a.m. local time tomorrow to announce the retirement of Brian Rafalski. You can watch live on DetroitRedWings.com