Tuukka Rask, who wanted a Stanley Cup championship truly to call his own, instead on Wednesday afternoon decided to call it a career, noting in his farewell statement that his body no longer could live up to the physical rigors of NHL goaltending.
Not a good day for Rask, who will turn 35 next month. Not a good day for Bruins fans, at least those honest enough to acknowledge his august body of work that included more wins (308), more shutouts (52), more playoff games (104), and more postseason wins (57) than any netminder in franchise history.
“It is with a heavy heart,” Rask wrote in a statement the Bruins released shortly after 5 p.m., “that I announce my retirement from the game of hockey.”
His decision, while abrupt, was not a shock. In his four appearances this season, returning to action Jan. 13 after having a torn hip labrum repaired over the summer, Rask went from solid in his opening start, to average, and then to subpar.
All of it played out in a span of 11 less-than-memorable days that culminated with a loss to the Ducks on Jan. 24 in which he gave up five goals on 27 shots.
So, a storybook ending it was not. As is so often the case.
Truth is, few have the chance to say goodbye in glorious style like, say, Ray Bourque, who shook the Cup ecstatically over his head at the end of his brief farewell tour with the Avalanche.
In Bruins’ history, Rask’s adieu is more akin to that of Gord Kluzak, the behemoth blue liner (and No. 1 overall pick in the 1982 draft) who was only 26 when he played his final game for the Bruins, forced to call it quits because of a bum knee full of staples, stitches, and broken dreams.
Unlike Bourque and Kluzak, Rask did get his name on the Cup here, in 2011, albeit while stationed at the end of the bench as partner Tim Thomas steered the magic carpet ride that ended with a Game 7 win in Vancouver.
Rask then twice backed the Bruins on runs to the Cup Final, in 2013 and 2019, only to come up short each time. They lost to the Blackhawks in ‘13, in the great Game 6 unraveling at the Garden, for which some still lay too much blame at Rask’s feet. And then in Game 7 in ‘19, again at the Garden, a night in which Blues rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was too much and an exhausted Bruins offense too little.
For his part, wrote Rask, what he’ll remember most is “the bond that I had with my teammates, coaches, and team staffs” — memories and friendships that he said will remain with him forever.
“I will miss everything,” he added, “that comes with representing the Boston Bruins.”
Rask, despite the club records and his superb career metrics (2.28 goals-against average; .921 save percentage) still ranks second to Gerry Cheevers as the club’s greatest goalie.
Cheevers, with help from partner Eddie Johnston, backed the Bruins to two Cup titles (1970 and ‘72), and might have added one or two more if he had not bolted, along with Derek Sanderson and others, for bigger bucks in the rival World Hockey Association.
Cheevers, though, had the luxury of being part of a team, the Big Bad Bruins, forever to be remembered for its record-breaking offense, led by the legendary likes of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Rask never worked with such riches. In fact, only Grant Fuhr, the lead netminding face of the great Oilers teams in the 1980s and ‘90s, ever backstopped a group that with the kind of offensive firepower.
For those unwilling to give Rask proper credit, they’ll justify it with the club’s failure to close the deal in 2013 and ‘19. Granted, Cup titles go a long way in defining careers, a painful truth for superb talents such as Jean Ratelle and Brad Park, just to name two.
In that context, Rask also had the misfortune of playing here when Boston became title town, amid the glorious championship runs of the Patriots and Red Sox. Reaching a Cup Final is arguably the toughest, most physically demanding task in pro sports. Rask led the Bruins there twice, often with brilliant performances. In fact, the case easily can be made that no Rask would have meant no Cup Final in 2013 or ‘19. The dissenters will remember those years for what he didn’t do rather than what he did.
In his farewell, Rask spoke of the 2011 Cup win, the two added Finals, his play in the Winter Classics, his Olympic bronze medal with Finland in 2014, and how Boston became his family’s “adopted” home.
He arrived here as an unknown, acquired in a June 2006 trade from Toronto for Andrew Raycroft. The end came nearly 16 years later, the Bruins left to find their way with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman in net.
And so it goes.
Rask signed the bottom of the release, “Kiitos paljon, Boston,” Finnish for “thanks a lot.”
Such a simple farewell. Perhaps Rask will have more to say at another time, but for now the work he’s left behind will speak for him.
For some, that’s plenty.
For some others, it was never enough.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.