February 13, 2012
Comrie ends NHL career
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Mike Comrie was Public Enemy No. 1 in Edmonton before the city even met Chris Pronger.
And now, nine years, four teams and one pretty cool reunion after a break-up that set new civic lows for bitterness and hostility, he can look back on it and laugh.
As much as anyone whose career has been cut short by injury can laugh, anyway.
“It was a tough ordeal because I don’t think that I really meant for it to be like that,” said the Edmonton-born centre, who announced his retirement Monday, at a much-too-young 31. “It did kind of become bigger than any of us thought it would. But in life you make decisions, you live with them and you can’t look back.”
The 2003 Comrie-Kevin Lowe feud was a beauty.
Two years into his contract, Comrie felt claustrophobic as a 22-year-old homegrown hockey star in Edmonton, wanted to spread his wings and see the world, and demanded a trade. Lowe responded by suggesting the decision was money-based and insisted Comrie return his signing bonus.
Edmonton’s airwaves and newspapers, as airwaves and newspapers love to do, bathed gleefully in venom for months.
“I just wanted to run my life and move on from Edmonton,” said Comrie. “But I think you learn the grass isn’t always greener. I’m happy to have lived it and gone through it, it made me a stronger person.”
Then, six years after the last of the bridges had been burned, the impossible: He and Lowe buried the hatchet and Comrie came home.
All that was left to do was win back the fans. So Comrie responded with a four-point, one fight game in the pre-season. By the end of the night they were chanting his name.
“I wouldn’t have imagined that in a million years,” he said. “It was a special moment for me. It felt like a playoff game.
“I’m lucky that management brought me back. I’m happy that I was able to do it. I wish I could have stayed healthy.”
But he couldn’t. The hip, mostly artificial now, won’t allow him to continue.
After playing just 21 games last year in Pittsburgh, he took this year off to let it rest and see how it felt, see if there was any chance for a comeback. There isn’t.
“Announcing your retirement is never the easiest thing,” said Comrie. “I always held out hope my hip would get better, but after five years and three surgeries it wouldn’t hold up.”
His final stats line reads 589 regular-season games and 32 playoff games with the Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Ottawa, New York and Pittsburgh, twice scoring 30 goals in a season and five times scoring at least 20.
“I wish I could have played healthier for longer,” said Comrie, whose new wife, Hilary Duff, is expecting their first child in March. “But that’s not the case and I’m moving on.”
It was turbulent at times, and he spent a lot of games playing through injuries that robbed him of strength and mobility in his prime, but the good in Comrie’s NHL career far outweighed the bad.
“Playing at home in Edmonton in front of friends and family on the team I followed since I was young was something special,” he said. “And to have made the lasting friendships with so many of my former teammates is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s the reward that has made all the hard work, the trades, the moves and the surgeries worthwhile.”