Lubomir Visnovsky, the Slovakian defenseman who won over the hearts of fans and teammates in four stops in the NHL, has announced his retirement from pro hockey at age 39.
The announcement came as he concluded the season with Slovan Bratislava, Slovakia's entrant in the KHL. The HC Slovan site has words and video from Visnovsky here.
He recalled the late countryman Pavol Demitra in his departure, while expressing a fondness for his true "home" club Slovan Bratislava, where he played in the late '90s, during NHL Lockouts II and III, and again as he wrapped things up for his final season of pro hockey:
"It's hard to find the words. I have the best memories with this club. I've had beautiful moments here."
But as was clear during his final season with the Islanders and his trouble finding an NHL contract after 2014-15 ended with another concussion, the health issues became too great to carry on.
"The last two-three seasons struggling with injuries...you can't keep playing the way I did a few games followed by several weeks off."
Višňovský was drafted 118th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2000. At 5'10" and a left-shooter who prefered the right side, he beat many odds to become a reliable offensive defenseman for the Kings, Oilers, Ducks and Islanders.
At each stop he connected with fans -- sometimes multiple times -- and his way with words in his non-native language was a breath of fresh air in an often too-cliche-laden league. So too was his pressing the extent of his rights after he was traded right before a no-trade clause was set to kick in.
He possessed that special combination of skill and the confidence to use it, the kind hockey so often discourages as high-risk unless a player proves he can make that risk pay off more often than not.
As one of our several resident Lubo fans, Michael Leboff, put it last summer:
Visnovsky is a gem because he was a master of doing things that most defenseman wouldn't even be able to think of doing. When he was under pressure he did things that probably made forwards think to themselves, "that was the last thing I'd ever expect a defenseman to do in that situation." He was a high-risk guy, but he was so damn smooth about it that his high-wire act was pretty much encouraged.
Indeed. Thanks for the memories, Lubo. Best of luck in the next chapter.