Wednesday afternoon it was announced that former Boston Bruin and current New York Islander Johnny Boychuck would be retiring from hockey stemming from his eye injury that he suffered back in March. Even though he has not been a Bruin since 2014 he is still adored by the Boston faithful. So let’s take a look back on his career and see what made him so endearing to the fans in TD Garden.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Boychuck would play in minor leagues across Canada eventually playing for the Calgary Hitmen. In 2002, he would then be drafted 61st overall by the Colorado Avalanche and would play in the AHL for the next 5 years before being called up to Colorado in 2008. At the end of that season he would then be traded to Boston and it is there where he would make his mark on the NHL.
In his first week he would be names the AHL’s player of the week; recording one goal and six assists between two different games. By the end of the season he would lead the AHL amongst defensemen with 20 goals and 45 assists. This secured him the Eddie Shore Award and a spot on the All-Star Team.
The following season he would be called up to Boston where he would spend the next 5 years; he would play in Europe during the 2012-2013 NHL lockout. Even though he would only record 19 goals and 56 assists over those six years; it was his work on defense that would make him a fan favorite in Boston. With 46 takeaways, 543 blocked shots, and an impressive 593 hits; his presence on the blueline was integral to the success that the Bruins saw during this time, which included a Stanley Cup win.
In 2014, Boychuck would be reluctantly traded to the New York Islanders in return for a 2nd round draft pick in the 2015 NHL draft. The reasoning given was both to clear cap space for big names like Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, and Marchand and to continuing to build the team for the future. We ended using the 2nd round pick to draft Brandon Carlo who is becoming a top defensemen in his own right.
Boychuck would, arguably, do even better in New York; recording 35 goals, 96 assists, 89 takeaways, 782 blocks, and 782 hits. While I cannot speak for all Bruins fans, but for me it was nice to see Johnny Rocket continue to have a prolific career. That was until March of 2020.
On March 3, 2020 during a game against the Montreal Canadiens; the skate blade of Artturi Lehkonen would come up off the ice and into the face of Boychuck. Boycuhck immediately skated off of the ice holding his face. I remember seeing this unfold and fearing the worst. It would be revealed that he suffered a cut across his right eyelid. After stitches and plastic surgery Boychuck said his eye was 100% and he would play in three playoff games for the Islanders; although he wouldn’t do much.
It would seem like Boychuck would return to play whenever this season would eventually begin. Then came Wednesday where he and the Islanders announced his retirement from play. Boychuck said in a zoom call that he has poor peripheral vision and nerve damage. “It wasn’t really a decision, it was a life choice,” an emotional Boychuk said. “If I was to go and play again and not be able to see somebody coming and get hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”
While it’s sad to see Johnny Boychuck’s career end earlier than it was supposed to; I completely support his decision to step away before something worse happens. So, a thank you to Johnny Rocket to all your contributions to the Boston Bruins and the NHL. Enjoy retirement.
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