ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ryan Getzlaf didn't want to wait until his body broke down or his willpower waned. The Anaheim Ducks' longtime captain also wanted to start the next chapter of his life on his own schedule.
With his parents, his wife and their four children by his side, Getzlaf felt confident he's finally ready to glide into life after the NHL.
"I've always said I was going to let my body and mind dictate when I was going to retire," the 36-year-old Getzlaf said Tuesday while announcing his decision to retire at the conclusion of the season after a 17-year career spent entirely with the Ducks.
"I remember talking to my buddies when I first came in the league, and I thought that was going to be at about 26," he added with a laugh. "Definitely over-lasted what I thought I would. The grind of the everyday, getting up, the preparation for each season, gets harder and harder as you get older."
Getzlaf teared up several times during a news conference at Honda Center attended by dozens of his friends, family members and both current and former teammates. Getzlaf wasn't surprised to see his wife, Paige, but was shocked to see his parents and children, who kept their attendance a secret.
"I've created an atmosphere around me of support, a loving family that I'd like to go home to," Getzlaf said. "Kids that I'd like to grow up playing with, not watching play. That was a (reason) for me to step away from the game before those things happen."
Getzlaf has been one of the top playmaking centers in hockey for most of his career, scoring 1,013 points in 1,150 games since his NHL debut in October 2005 with the then-Mighty Ducks. A sublime passer with remarkable vision on the ice and a graceful ease with the puck, he became Anaheim's career franchise scoring leader last Oct. 31, and he became the 92nd player in league history to score 1,000 points on Nov. 16.
Getzlaf is still a solid NHL player, and he wants to leave while that's still the case. Although he's been dogged by injuries this season, he says he's still got "a fairly healthy body for an athlete, and I'd like to keep it that way."
"It was very important to not be pushed out, so to speak," Getzlaf added. "I never want to be part of a situation where you're playing it out and people are doing you favors. You never want people to want you to leave."
Despite missing 22 games with various injuries this season, Getzlaf is tied for fourth on the Ducks' roster in scoring with three goals and 28 assists. He has at least 25 assists for the 16th time in his 17 seasons even though he sat out most of the past month with a lower-body injury.
Getzlaf also leads the Ducks in career games played, assists (731) and playoff scoring. He has been Anaheim's captain for the past 12 seasons, presiding over a lengthy period of sustained team success before their current struggles.
He is a Stanley Cup champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada, a three-time NHL All-Star and the runner-up for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2014.
The Ducks (28-31-12) have 11 games left in what's almost certain to be their fourth consecutive non-playoff season, but Getzlaf has remained a beloved figure among Orange County fans who adore his playmaking abilities and revere his loyalty to their often-overlooked club. He expressed that fidelity again last season when he declined to be traded to a contender to chase a late-career championship ring.
"Last year's trade deadline was one of the hardest two days of my life," Getzlaf said. "Me and Paige stayed up long nights talking about it, and ultimately the decision to stay here was based on the loyalty that this organization has shown me over the years. It just didn't feel right to go anywhere."
Only 14 players in NHL history retired after playing more seasons than Getzlaf while spending their entire careers with one club, and he is the first one-team player in Anaheim history to play at least 10 seasons.
He spent his first 14 seasons playing alongside fellow 2003 first-round draftee Corey Perry, forming one of the most dynamic scoring partnerships in recent NHL history.
Perry, who was released in 2019 by former general manager Bob Murray in a move that still rankles many Ducks fans, has 16 goals this season for Tampa Bay.
Getzlaf teared up as he thanked the absent Perry, calling him "my best friend."
"We started together on this journey, and it would have been great to finish this way, but obviously our business is what it is," Getzlaf said. "He's been an inspiration and my partner through all this."
Getzlaf and Perry won the Stanley Cup together during their second NHL season in 2007, teaming up with Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the Ducks became the first California club to claim hockey's ultimate prize.
Getzlaf became Anaheim's captain in 2010 following Niedermayer's retirement. The Ducks remained a regular playoff contender for the following decade, winning five consecutive Pacific Division titles and reaching two conference finals from 2013-17.
Getzlaf and his family are staying in Orange County in retirement, and he's looking forward to much more family time and golf. He still anticipates getting involved with hockey again at some point in the near future, likely with the Ducks.
"I don't think I'm a person that can just step back and not really do anything," Getzlaf said. "I still build stuff at my house every day when I'm home. This organization has given me a lot. My whole goal has been to get back to the Stanley Cup since I've been there, and I don't really feel like that journey is over yet."
Anaheim's home finale is April 24 against St. Louis. The Ducks finish the regular season April 29 at Dallas.