Brooks Orpik has announced he’s retiring from professional hockey after a successful NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
The 38 year old defenseman spent 15 seasons in the NHL and skated in 1,035 games on his way to winning two Stanley Cup Championships (in 2008-2009 with the Penguins and 2017-2018 with the Capitals). He was originally drafted by the Penguins with the 18th overall pick in the 2000 NHL draft, made his NHL debut in the 2002-2003 season, and signed with the Capitals as a free agent in 2014.
Orpik was affectionately known by his teammates as Batya (a Russian nickname meaning Dad, which is a respectful way of viewing Orpik’s age and leadership) and several players have already spoken about how his leadership will be missed in the dressing room. “We will miss his presence in the room and on the ice,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said after the announcement according to Yahoo Sports. “Not only was he a great leader and a player, but he was a better person.”
While saying he’ll “be forever grateful for the memories and relationships that hockey has given me,” Orpik thanked the Capitals and Penguins to play hockey at such a high level. He went on to say he’s “been extremely lucky to have the best job in the world for many years, but [his] body is telling [him] it is time to move on to something new.”
The lefty’s leadership in the locker room is credited with helping to create a strong community atmosphere among his teammates, but the injuries definitely were creeping up on him with age. He was forced to miss several months of action during the 2018-2019 season and he described how he was constantly in pain after spending time on the ice.
With the reputation he has for being such a strong leader, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eventually make his way back into the hockey world as a coach. In the meantime, however, he says he’s “excited for more family time and to experience a lot of the things that being a professional athlete forces you to miss out on.”
The Capitals are already on their way to replacing Orpik’s skills on the ice as they brought in Radko Gudas earlier this month in a trade with Philly. Gudas won’t be a superstar, but will be a solid contributor on the third line defensively and help with the penalty kill. Perhaps the more important development, however, will be to see who steps up to fill his role as a leader in the locker room.