Veteran defenceman Keith Ballard last played in an NHL game on Wednesday, December 9, 2014.
The 33-year-old officially retired Wednesday, one year since he last suited up for a hockey game with the Minnesota Wild.
Ballard was injured on a hit from New York Islanders forward Matt Martin, suffering facial fractures and a concussion that left him convulsing on the ice. The former University of Minnesota standout told The StarTribune‘s Michael Russo he still feels the effects of that concussion “here and there.”
Ballard finishes his career with 38 goals and 175 points in 604 games played with the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, and Wild.
Ballard recalls being diagnosed with a concussion on five occasions, but figures the incidents of suffering head trauma may be higher.
He is currently pursuing a degree in sport management at the University of Minnesota.
“I didn’t want to retire at this time, but with the bigger picture in mind, it was a no-brainer,” Ballard told Russo. “You look at so many athletes and they struggle for so long and I don’t want that to be me. I want to live a healthy life, be there for my wife and kids.”
The Buffalo Sabres selected Ballard 11th overall in 2002. He was a member of two Golden Gophers NCAA champion teams in 2002 and 2003.