scott hartnell
Scott Hartnell
George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP

NHL Forward Scott Hartnell has announced his retirement after playing for 17 seasons.  That’s an incredibly long career.  Especially for an athlete.  It’s certainly more common these days, and the sport itself can dictate some of that as well, but overall, it’s still seen as lengthy.  Hartnell posted this news on Twitter, just a few days before the regular season begins.  Hartnell was unsigned after spending last season in Nashville.  Hartnell was known for his feisty attitude and the hashtag #HartnellDown made light of how many times he fell to the ice over the last few years.  He put up 327 goals and 380 assists for 707 points in 1249 regular season games.  Again, these are impressive stats overall.

But at what point do you a call it a career?  For the rest of the world, we tend to have some kind of retirement age in mind.  Whether that’s dictated by rules saying what age you have to retire, or based on how much money you’ve saved, we all kind of have an idea when we can or want to retire.  But with professional athletes, it’s a bit different.  A retirement could happen at the age of 25 or 29 when a career has barely begun.  A retirement at this age often is as a result of an injury. There are players, however, who take themselves out of the sport for one reason or another.  In fact, one NFL player took himself out of the league because he was worried about what would happen to his brain. And you certainly can’t blame him for that.

With hockey, though, it’s a bit different.  Yes, it’s a contact sport.  But it doesn’t have the same helmet to helmet contact that the NFL does.  So at some point in your career, you either decide that you’ve had enough, or you age out of it.  It almost sounds like a bit of both for Hartnell.

Hartnell was drafted sixth overall in the 2000 NHL draft and made his debut later that fall.  Hartnell is from Regina, Saskatchewan, which doesn’t have much going for it, so it’s no surprise that he took to hockey.  Hartnell spent the first five years of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators before joining the Philadelphia Flyers.  It took Hartnell 12 years before he was able to play in an All-Star game.  He joined the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014 and spent three seasons there before returning to the Predators this past summer.

Hartnell says that he’s in the “twilight” of his career. If that’s the case, should we consider all athletes in the twilight of their career when they get to the age of 35 or 36?  If I think of someone like Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady.  While the former just retired, he was considered “old” for playing in the NBA.  Brady is 41 and shows no sign of stopping, so I think it’s hard to put an age on when an athlete gets to the “twilight” of their career.  That said, athletes are known to have amazing second careers.  Who knows where this will take Hartnell, but overall he’s had a pretty incredible career.

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