July 20, 2015

Taylor Pyatt

Taylor Pyatt has retired from hockey after a 15-year pro career that included 14 seasons in the NHL with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. In total, Pyatt played 859 NHL games, where he recorded 140 goals and 140 assists along with 430 penalty minutes. Pyatt spent last season playing in Switzerland alongside younger brother Tom.

Pyatt cited the physical toll of the game for the reason for his retirement at age 33.

“I had a few more injuries this year, a few more concussions. It’s just time for me to sort of step away. I’m proud of what I accomplished in my career, but now’s the time to take a little time away from the game and we’ll see."

Pyatt was a behemoth on the ice at 6'4" and 230lbs, though the winger was often criticized for not using his size to his full advantage. He was not the most assertive player  but he quietly used his massive frame to protect the puck and to remove opponents from it.

The New York Islanders selected Pyatt 8th overall in the 1999 NHL draft. He was rushed into the Islanders lineup in the 2000-01 season then dumped to Buffalo in the Michael Peca trade shortly after that.

It was not until Pyatt joined the Vancouver Canucks in 2006 that he emerged as a bonafide NHLer. Playing at times with the sensational Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, Pyatt emerged as a 23 goal scorer, and scored a memorable playoff overtime goal against Dallas.

Pyatt's life took a drastic turn for the worse by April of 2009. As the Canucks were about to embark on their playoff run, Pyatt received a phone call no one ever hopes to receive. His fiance, high school sweetheart Carly Bragnalo, had died in a taxi accident while on vacation in Jamaica. The two had a wedding planned for the off season.

“I went home for about six weeks and ended up coming back and playing in a few playoff games, but looking back now I don’t really know how I was able to play in those games,” Pyatt said. “I was still such an emotional wreck.”

“It was definitely a really tough six months to a year afterward to sort of get back on my feet.”

Part of Pyatt's healing process was leaving Vancouver as a free agent, as he felt he needed a change of scenery after the accident.

“That’s part of the reason I went to Phoenix, was to sort of go somewhere where I could still play but be out of the Canadian spotlight,” he said. “I was able to sort of get my career back on track."

Pyatt played three seasons with the Coyotes, topping out with 18 goals in the 2010-11 season. He would later have brief stints with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Playing a final season in Switzerland in 2014-15 allowed Taylor to play with his brother Tom, who also played in the NHL. It was a real highlight of each other's career.

“We never really had a chance to play together at all,” he said. “There’s a six-year age difference. I left home when I was 16 to play and he was pretty young. So it was fun to be able to spend a lot of time with him, play on the same line, drive to practice every day together. I really enjoyed it.”

Of course the Pyatt brothers were second generation NHLers, as their father Nelson played nearly 300 games in the NHL back in the 1970s.

"He played professionally for a number of years and I always sort of looked up to him. I wanted to take after him. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to get to this level and play for a number of years. Skating on the backyard rink with all my brothers and my dad in Thunder Bay, Ont., where I grew up. That’s where I learned all the basics of the game, fundamentals. And that’s where I fell in love with hockey.

"It's been great to live out a dream."

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