This is where we're reminded that NHL players are humans, too. This is a where we recognize that -- money being no issue -- it sounds pretty nice to sit on the beach or chill with family rather than get up every morning to bust your tail at the gym. This is where former Islander Kenny Jonsson retires from hockey at age 34.
While we often expect that every pro player would seek the Stanley Cup, and money (first, or second?), at all costs until the body or 30 GMs put an end to that mission, Kenny Jonsson proved -- twice -- that just isn't always the case.During eight-plus seasons on Long Island, word would occasionally emerge that Jonsson was mulling a return to Sweden. No telling whether Gary Roberts's lightly punished, concussion-inducing, blatant hit to the head in the 2002 playoffs accelerated that thought. Regardless, the lockout helped advance and seal the notion. The three-time Swedish Olympian returned home to toil for his original club, second-division squad Rögle Angelholm, where he remained after the lockout and stayed through their promotion back to the Swedish Elite League before last season.
The decision in Jonsson's athletic prime to pick a lesser league, for lesser money, previewed this wonderfully honest reason he gave for choosing retirement now:
"I made the decision when I felt that I didn't have the motivation to start dryland training (this off-season)."
There you have it: The man knows what he wants out of life, and elite hockey simply isn't the half of it.
Which isn't to say, by any means, that Jonsson's heart wasn't in the game as an Islander. He was a constant contributor after coming over with the 1st-round pick that became Roberto Luongo in the deal that sent Wendel Clark and Mathieu Schneider to the Maple Leafs. By all accounts, a solid character and great teammate. While his offensive stats were never Mark Streit-like, they were acceptable for the bad teams and lower scoring era in which he played. (He wasn't too shabby in NHL '96 and subsequent games, either.)
His defection was a real blow for the Isles after the lockout, after which they've made only one playoff appearance. Many fans still miss him and the spot he filled on the blueline. Few fans I've seen ever resented his decision, which is one we could all probably identify with (if we're honest) -- particularly if we grossed some $20 million in an Islanders uniform.
Yet to the team-focused fan, his return home, like his retirement, feels to soon. Hey, I'd gladly take him back in an Islanders uniform today.
In addition to three Olympics (two of which yielded gold medals), Jonsson played for Team Sweden in six World Championships and one World Cup. He can hardly be called disloyal. He shouldn't be called a quitter. He was just a guy who knew what he wanted, and knew when it was time to quit.
So cheers and congratulations, you crazy Swede. Enjoy those drinks on the beach.
Got any memories of
old still-young #29 -- fond or negative? Do share in comments...