Johnny Boychuk, 36, retired on Wednesday after 13 bruising seasons in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders. Boychuk decided to hang up his skates after being cut on his right eyelid by Artturi Lehkonen in March. Boychuk only played three more games – all during the 2020 playoffs. His final game was Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final when the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Islanders from the postseason.
“I don’t even think it was a decision. When you play with it and realize there’s something wrong, and then you go and get tests, it really wasn’t a decision; it was a life choice, I guess,” Boychuk said according to ESPN. “If I was to go and play again and not able to see somebody coming and get hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”
Boychuk was expected to return next season after stating in June that his injury was “almost like 100 percent” and “nothing to have me worried about being on the ice again” but subsequent tests during the offseason were an “eye-opener.” The Islanders will place Boychuk on long-term injured reserve for the next two seasons, saving the team $6 million and giving them nearly $10 million of cap space. The team reportedly has deals in place for UFAs Matt Martin, Cory Schnieder, and Andy Greene while star forward Mathew Barzal remains a restricted free agent.
Boychuk played a rugged style, similar to Brooks Orpik, during his long career in the NHL, never missing the opportunity to land a big hit on opposing stars. Boychuk was frequently matched up against Alex Ovechkin and the two built up quite the rivalry during his time with the Boston Bruins.
During Boychuk’s rookie season, the defenseman nailed Ovechkin into the boards with a giant hit in the defensive zone. How did Ovi respond? By terrorizing Boychuk and landing three big hits over the next 30 seconds. Per the Washington Post’s brilliant Dan Steinberg, Ovi left “the rookie on the ice in almost the exact same spot.”
It was one of those legendary Ovechkin shifts you never forget.
The two would continue their rivalry on Long Island. Boychuk was one of the few defensemen who could sometimes get the best of Ovi physically – such as this counter hit.
Ovechkin faced Boychuk’s teams 46 times, winning 26 games and taking a loser point from five more. Ovechkin scored 25 goals in those games, including a hat trick on January 18 of this year.
Head-to-head, the two rivals played 348 minutes against each other. Ovi scored four goals and tallied seven assists; Boychuk actually ate Ovi’s lunch for the first few years. Ovi didn’t get a goal against him before 2012.
Boychuk ends his career after 725 games in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins during the 2010-11 season.
Screenshot courtesy of NESN