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Remembering the pluses and (mostly) minuses of Roman Hamrlik

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Roman Hamrlik officially retired on Monday, after 1,395 NHL regular-season games over a 20-year career. It’s a little curious that a major Donald Fehr basher like Hamrlik couldn’t find gainful employment from one of the NHL’s owners to whom he sucked-up, but maybe being a 39-year-old defenseman with no wheels trumps politics.

What will you remember about him, besides his blunt yet tantalizing last name?

He was a strong power-play quarterback in his day, with 62 career power-play goals during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and, briefly, the New York Rangers.

He shot the puck hard. He lived up to his last name on hits, too:

That said, not exactly a pugilist. Roenick ... really?

But from a hockey nostalgia standpoint, we’ll remember Hamrlik from the infant stages of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise.

They had their choice of Hamrlik or Alexei Yashin in 1992, and chose what they figured would be a franchise defenseman. He wasn’t, obviously, as GM Phil Esposito used to call him out on the regular about his inconsistent play while carrying the highest salary on the team. He was traded in 1997 to the Edmonton Oilers in a multi-player deal for Bryan Marchment.

For a while, it looked like Hamrlik might be on pace to be the worst plus/minus defenseman in NHL history, as he was a career minus-138 through 2001. And for that while, it was amazing to see those minus totals pile up on some terrible Lightning teams. It was like watching that billboard with the national debt in Manhattan.

But he actually only had three minus-seasons from 2001 through his retirement, finishing at a minus-49.

(Your career-worst plus/minus defenseman? Robert Stewart, who played from 1971-1980 and was a minus-260 for his career.)

Fare thee well, Roman Hamrlik. May your NHLPA pension be unaffected by your caustic words for its executive director. (For the record, the NHLPA announced hos retirement, so we imagine bygones are bygones.)

Here’s Hamrlik’s statement:

“After much thought and consideration I have decided to end my hockey career as of today. 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. It has been a great honor, 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.

"Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who have helped me along the way, and without whom I would not have been able to enjoy playing. For these relationships and everyone’s support, I am very grateful.

"First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents who raised me and made me the man I am today. For all of their continuous support during my life and throughout my career, I am extremely grateful to them. I also cannot forget to mention my older brother Martin, the person who opened the door to my NHL dream. Martin was a big reason why I was selected first overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal and I am forever indebted to him for that. He has always been a role model to me and I am very proud of what he accomplished during his decorated career, a career which also recently concluded.

"Furthermore, I want to thank my girlfriend Cynthia for all of the support she has given me during the last few years of my career. I certainly cannot forget all my friends, relatives and fans, three groups of people without whom we, professional athletes, could not enjoy the life and fame that we do. To each and every one of them, I say thank you for your support.

"I would also like to recognize my hometown of Zlin, Czech Republic and its excellent hockey program. This is where my hockey dreams were born and where my skills were first honed. I would like to thank all of my coaches and teammates with whom I played with there as a young man. Each of you helped me to continue to develop and ultimately represent Zlin and the Czech Republic, both in the NHL, and also on the international hockey stage. With that in mind, I cannot forget the 1998 Czech Republic Olympic hockey team, under the guidance and leadership of coach Ivan Hlinka. I am so proud to have been a part of such a memorable tournament and the incredible victory of the Czech Republic, in the tournament of the century, is something I will cherish always.

"Because I had the opportunity to play on numerous NHL teams, under many general managers and coaches, I want to express my gratitude to all of them. Especially, I would like to thank my first general manager in Tampa Bay, Phil Esposito, who selected me as the first player in Tampa Bay Lightning history, first overall in the 1992 Draft. It was Phil who gave me a chance to play in the NHL, and I value and appreciate him as a GM and a friend to this day.

"Lastly, I also want to thank all of my teammates, agents, trainers, team staff and personnel, doctors and all of the others with whom I had the opportunity to meet and work with during my career. It was a great honor to play in the same league with legends such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Paul Coffey, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek, as well as today's stars like Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr and many more.

"I am grateful for all the support given to me during my hockey career. I will always appreciate the opportunity to play in the greatest league of the world.

So, uh, no former teammate Alex Ovechkin on that "today's stars" rundown, eh?

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