After 16 seasons and 1,035 career games, former Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik announced his retirement from the National Hockey League on Tuesday. Orpik’s decision to step away from the game was revealed by the Washington Capitals on the team’s website on Tuesday morning.
In a statement, Orpik explained why he decided to call it a career and thanked the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals for his time with the respective teams.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to have the best job in the world for many years, but my body is telling me it is time to move on to something new,” said Orpik. “I’m excited for more family time and to experience a lot of the things that being a professional athlete forces you to miss out on. Thank you to the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for giving me the opportunity to play against the best athletes in the world. I’ll be forever grateful for the memories and relationships that hockey has given me.”
In an interview with Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, Orpik expanded on his reasons for calling it a career.
”I would leave the rink every day, and then half the time I was at home I was doing treatment on my knee, and I had my kids pulling me to do other stuff I couldn’t do,” Orpik said. “I didn’t want to play through the pain that I played through last year. It was a pretty easy decision, to be honest with you. A lot of people struggle with it, but I didn’t struggle with it much.”
Orpik was originally drafted by the Penguins with the 18th selection in the 2000 NHL Draft, and made his NHL debut in 2002 with the team. He became a full time NHL player during the 2003-04 season and became a key piece in the Penguins return to prominence.
Orpik spent 11 seasons in a Penguins uniform which included a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. He became a key piece of the team’s blue line during the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era, and watched the team go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.
When you think of Orpik, offense will never be the first thing that comes to mind, but he did have some great moments during his time with the Penguins. One of his most memorable moments will be his shift from the 2008 Stanley Cup Final where he buried four Red Wings players in about a 15 second span.
Another great moment from Orpik is also from the playoffs, just fast forward five years. With the Penguins getting all they could handle from the Islanders in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Orpik called series with an overtime goal in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum that send the Penguins on to the next round.
Orpik was never a goal scorer, and he wasn’t asked to be, but that was a huge moment to help the team get past an Islanders squad that was giving them everything they could handle.
After the 2013-14 season, Orpik became an unrestricted free agent and it was pretty clear his time with the Penguins was over. On July 1st, 2014, Orpik signed a five year deal with the rival Washington Capitals, where he won a second Stanley Cup title in 2018. The deal was never one the Penguins could have been able to afford, but you hated to see a guy so important to the resurrection of the Penguins franchise go to a team you despised.
To honor his career and celebrate his retirement, the Penguins released a short video tribute to Orpik, highlighting his biggest moments during his time with the franchise.
Congratulations on your retirement, Brooksy! pic.twitter.com/qzZxrDf9CL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 25, 2019
In some ways, it’s sad that Orpik never got to play out his entire career with the Penguins, given how important he was in their rise from bottom feeders to champions, but it’s safe to say it all worked out for everyone involved in the end.
Congrats on your retirement, Brooks. All the best to you in whatever lies ahead.
Thanks for everything.