St. Louis Blues left wing Geoff Courtnall, unable to shake the effects of post-concussion syndrome after a month-long layoff, retired Thursday.
Surrounded by family and teammates at a somber news conference, Courtnall, 37, broke down and cried.
"I'd like to thank all the guys for showing up, and I hope you guys win the Stanley Cup this year," Courtnall said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I'll miss you guys."
Several teammates also wept during the news conference.
"He's an emotional player and those things kind of bleed over into other people," teammate Kelly Chase said. "When you see a guy have to go through that, you wish it would be on his own terms."
Courtnall had 799 points and 1,465 penalty minutes in 1,048 NHL games over 17 seasons, but has missed most of the last two seasons due to concussions. He signed a three-year, $10.5 million extension in 1998 after leading the team with 31 goals the previous season, but has played in only 30 games the last two seasons.
Before giving up, Courtnall said he tried cranial massage, acupuncture and dietary and sensory treatment along with conventional rehabilitation. None of it worked.
Courtnall sustained his second concussion in less than a year on Oct. 16, when Toronto defenseman Bryan Berard elbowed him on the chin, and never played again. After more than a month off, Courtnall, who had two goals and two assists in six games this season, said he still had concussion-related symptoms.
"Some days are hard, some other days I don't feel so good," Courtnall said. "I still have headaches and some dizziness."
Last season, Courtnall suffered from exercise-induced headaches, nausea, dizziness and vision problems during a 58-game absence. So after the second concussion, he said there was no temptation to wait a little longer and see.
"He's doing the right thing," coach Joel Quenneville said.
Courtnall said for now he'll concentrate on coaching the hockey teams of his sons, Adam, 12, and Justin, 11.
"Geoff is saying good-bye to his second family, the guys in the room, and that is the most difficult thing of all," said his wife, Penni. "But we're thankful that he is walking away from the game with his mind intact, and that we'll have a bright future together."
Courtnall's fondest memories are of playing on a Stanley Cup champion with Edmonton in 1988, helping Vancouver make it to the finals in 1994, and helping the Blues rebound from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last season.
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