Veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik announced his retirement Monday, ending a 20-year NHL career .
Hamrlik was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, making him the original Tampa Bay player. He went on to play 1,395 regular-season games (don't forget he lost another 140 games due to three NHL labour stoppages, too) and 113 post-season games with Tampa Bay, Edmonton, the New York Islanders, Calgary, Montreal, Washington and the New York Rangers over his career.
Hamrlik, from Zlin, Czech Republic, scored 155 goals and had 483 assists for 638 pointsover the course of his NHL career.
"As a kid growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, I never imagined that I would one day have the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League," Hamrlik said in an NHLPA statement. "It has been a great honour and a privilege to spend 20 seasons playing in the greatest hockey league in the world.
"I will always cherish the wonderful memories I have of my time spent in North America while playing the game I love, making sacrifices and pursuing my hockey dreams."
Though he never emerged as a superstar that everyone hopes for out of a first overall draft pick, "Hammer" was a very desirable player. If you know your first round pick with play 20 NHL seasons, you would be very happy with that.
Not that playing with an expansion team was easy on any young defenseman. Hamrlik posted some decent offensive totals in Tampa Bay, thanks to a heavy shot and lots of power play time. But in six seasons he was criticized for his defensive play, with his detractors pointing at his gaudy -124 rating over that time.
A lot of young defensemen struggle in their own zone, especially with weak teams. But Hamrlik shook that reputation as his career moved on. In fact, he became an in-demand player as a veteran because of his savvy and calm play. He would often be brought into a new team to play a leader's role and help young prospects like he once was.
Ultimately Roman Hamrlik will be remembered as a very steady, reliable 2nd pairing defenseman who could fill in in any situation. He was a hard hitter with a quiet snarl to his game. He was better defensively than some people gave him credit for, yet he was not as good offensively as some believed. He had a good shot and made smart first pass, but was never an overly creative offensive player.
Hamrlik also represented the Czech Republic internationally and with the highlight of his career coming in 1998 when he helped his country win the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics.
"This is the greatest moment in my life," he was quoted as saying back then.