His doctors told him and his aching body kept reminding him.
Deep down, Adam McQuaid knew it too.
But only now, two weeks after the birth of his first child and almost two years since his last game, can he bring himself to say it out loud — his NHL career is officially over.
“I guess technically I would say today is probably the first time that I would say that I’m done, publicly, but I guess I’ve known for awhile now that I wouldn’t be playing again,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Boston.
McQuaid, from Cornwall, P.E.I., hasn’t played an NHL game since March 28, 2019, when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He left the ice in pain with what later would be diagnosed as a herniated disc in his neck. It led to concussion symptoms and aches throughout his body, including nerve pain up and down his arm.
Never mind the broken finger and sprains — NHLers play through those all the time, he said.
And the knee surgery after the 2019 season? Maybe he could come back from that.
But the neck injury was, literally, the breaking point.
“I probably had a pretty good idea at that time that the chances of me playing again were really slim but I still wanted to go through the process of seeing what might be possible,” he said.
“It got to a point where I felt like I really kind of tapped out my body.”
He said he feels much better these days and the last thing he wants is sympathy. In fact, he said there are many people who deserve his thanks for supporting him throughout his 11-year career.
I am beyond fortunate to have been able to play as long as I did and to have the experiences that I did. I don’t look back on my situation and think, ‘Oh, things got cut short … or poor me,’ by any means.— Adam McQuaid
“I am beyond fortunate to have been able to play as long as I did and to have the experiences that I did. I don’t look back on my situation and think, ‘Oh, things got cut short … or poor me,’ by any means.”
Indeed, he was able to play 512 games in the NHL, eighth most by a player born on P.E.I. And while he wasn’t much of a scoring threat as a rugged, defensive-minded defenceman, his career plus-minus rating of plus-62 is the best of any Islander, including Gerard Gallant and Brad Richards, who inspired him to chase his NHL dreams.
He takes comfort knowing he came home from the rink every day after putting in his best effort. His name will be forever etched on the Stanley Cup, with the Boston Bruins in 2011, and said he’ll always be a Bruins fan at heart
“Those Stanley Cup runs, the atmosphere, coming to the rink and that’ll be something no matter what I do I’ll never be able to replicate the energy and the intensity of those games and those moments and those experiences. I’ve got a smile on my face right now thinking about having got to experience those.”
He has made millions of dollars along the way and now, at 34, he has finally come to terms with retirement.
“Certainly I have no regrets,” he said.
“When I played my first game in the league I said, ‘Well I can say I did, I played a game in the NHL.’ Never did I imagine I would do that, let alone play over 500 games and get to play with some of the guys I got to play with.”
He encourages young hockey players to work hard and believe in themselves.
“It’s such a unique game in the sense that the things that you learn not only about the sport but also things you can carry into your life like working hard and being part of a team and respecting your coaches and being able to be there for your teammates.”
McQuaid is not sure what the future holds as far as a new career. For now, he said he is focusing on being a father to his newborn son, Roman, and husband to his wife, Stephanie, who is also from P.E.I.
“It’s such an exciting time. There’s so much in the future and so much to be excited about and look forward to,” he said.
“We’re anxious to get back home and introduce Roman to our families and maybe get his feet dirty in the red soil a little bit.”