Michael Peca, a 35-year-old forward who spent 13 seasons in the National Hockey League and helped Canada to 2002 Olympic gold, retired after as one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL.
"I'm not sad by any means," Peca said. "Several months ago, I came to the decision I wasn't going to play anymore. Today's really just a day that I made a public statement. For me, it was so every time I run into old friends, they quit asking me if I'm done or not. "Now they've got the answer," he said. "It's kind of like a mass e-mail."
Peca is a two-time winner of the Selke trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. He was privileged to call himself an Olympic champion, however in his opinion, his greatest satisfaction came from the two great Cup runs in Buffalo in 1999 and Edmonton in 2006.
"Even though the Olympic gold medal was the one where I was fortunate enough to be successful, the Stanley Cup runs were actually more fruitful for me from the emotional standpoint," Peca said. "This is guys that have slugged it out for five, six months and now we've got to go another two months together to try and accomplish the greatest prize."
Peca had 176 goals and 465 points while he played 864 games with the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres,New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets.
For me personally, I will always remember Peca as a Buffalo Sabre first and then an Islander. But 2002 was nothing short of magical and in that playoff series against Toronto, Peca really got the Islanders back in the spot light. Islanders fans will always have a reason to hate Darcy Tucker, as much as Sabres fans still probably dislike Brett Hull. In my opinion, there has not been an Islander, current or since, yet to replace Mike and I do hope that Peca at least makes it into Buffalo's Hall of Fame.
If there is a word to describe Mike Peca it would be leader. No, he did not guarantee a win. No, he did not score a hat trick to physically motivate his team, but he did lead by example. When Peca talked, other teammates listened and followed and when teams like Buffalo and Edmonton, teams then that were not supposed to be in the Stanley Cup Finals, you can look at each roster down the list and everyone will agree that Peca is a big reason why they made it.
No, Peca did not score often, but he did not have to. Being a solid two-way player is sometimes a lost art in the NHL, and Mike Peca was certainly one of the best.
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