Former Maple Leafs, Flames centre Matt Stajan announces retirement

Former Maple Leaf and Flame Matt Stajan joins Writers Bloc on the day of his official retirement, to explain why and when he knew it was time, and to reminisce about his cherished time in both Toronto and Calgary.

Longtime NHL centreman Matt Stajan has officially announced his retirement from the NHL, delivering the news via the NHLPA on Tuesday.

Stajan logged 1,003 games in the big leagues, spending the first seven years of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs — who drafted him 57th overall back in 2002 — before a trade sent him to the Calgary Flames, with whom he spent the final nine years of his NHL career.

The veteran forward finished his career with 146 goals and 413 points to his name over his lengthy tenure in the NHL. He spent the 2018-19 season playing with the German hockey league’s EHC Red Bull Munchen, posting 33 points through 52 games.

“I enjoyed everything, every single part of being in the NHL … I cherished it all,” Stajan told Sportsnet late last year after moving on from the Flames.

“I got to play for the Leafs, who I grew up watching, for six and a half years and I loved every minute of it. And then I went to a great city in Calgary, where we live now as a family and we call home.

“Even through tough times, you know, on the ice, off the ice, you’ve just gotta take it all in, enjoy it all. Because that’s your life experience. And I’m very fortunate to have had that time playing in the NHL.”

On Tuesday, the former NHL pivot reflected further on his 14 years at the sport’s highest level.

“Thank you to every coach, assistant coach, manager, trainer, to my agents at Newport sports, and all of the support staff that I have met and worked with over the years. You all do so much to support what we do as players, on and off the ice, and it never went unnoticed. Thank you for believing in me, giving me a chance, and helping me grow along the way,” Stajan said, via the NHLPA.

“To every teammate I have had the pleasure of playing with, the friendships I have made are ones that will last forever. There is nothing I will miss more than the times spent with you on and off the ice.

“To the fans, thank you for making this experience that much more exciting.”

Stajan officially leaves his playing days behind as one of the most respected names to have worn the two jerseys he donned as an NHLer. His impact on those who spent time with him in both Toronto and Calgary make that all too clear.

“It was always team-first for Matt, it wasn’t about himself,” Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy told Sportsnet in 2018. “It’s a little uncommon at times now. You want to think everybody’s team-first, but there are guys in contract years, this, that or the other thing, that kind of get in the way sometimes.

“But I know with Matt, it was always about wanting the team to win. He wanted to be a part of winning here, and he wanted to do whatever it took.”

Former teammates of Stajan’s added their praise to the pile Tuesday, as well.

“The way he was able to connect with every single player made him that special teammate that everyone talks about,” Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk said, via the NHLPA.

“He made me feel so comfortable coming into the NHL.”

“When I came to Toronto as an 18-year-old, he was the guy that went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and did whatever he could to include me in everything, with all the veteran guys on the team,” echoed former Leafs teammate Luke Schenn.

“There’s zero chance that any teammate could ever say a bad thing about him.”

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