Written by Compose.ly Staff
Sports fans hate to see their favorite players retire earlier than expected. Unfortunately, injuries play a huge role in a high-contact sport like hockey. As a result, it’s common to see NHL players retire early, including these five who left the game in their prime.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Bobby Orr spent 12 years in the NHL. Most of his career was spent with the Boston Bruins, where he scored over 850 points and won the Norris Trophy nine times.
Orr retired in 1978. At 30, it seems logical that Orr could’ve spent more time in the NHL, but he cited a knee injury as his primary reason for retiring. During his time in the league, Orr had 12 knee surgeries and said he eventually destroyed his left knee.
After ending his hockey career, Orr admitted that he felt lost, but he has since made peace with his retirement.
Mike Bossy, another player who retired at 30 due to injury, was known for his ability to score for the New York Islanders. Some of his brightest accomplishments were scoring 50 goals in 50 games and scoring back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning goals in 1982 and ’83.
Bossy played 752 games in the NHL and scored a total of 1,126 points. He spent most of his final season in 1986-87 sitting out due to chronic knee and back injuries, playing only nine games that year. Following that season, Bossy decided to hang up his skates rather than aggravate these injuries.
He became a broadcaster and joined the Islanders’ front office in 2006. Sadly, Bossy died in April 2022 following a battle with lung cancer.
Adam Deadmarsh made his NHL debut in 1995 with the Quebec Nordiques and moved with the team to Colorado the following season. He was part of the 1996 Stanley Cup-winning team and spent another four full seasons with them before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 2000.
Although he scored only 48 points in his second season, Deadmarsh shined during the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs. In total, Deadmarsh scored 17 points throughout the playoff run’s 22 games. Following his trade to Los Angeles, Deadmarsh continued putting up solid numbers. But after suffering multiple concussions in 2002 and ’03 and never fully recovering, he officially retired in 2005 at 30 years old.
However, Deadmarsh stayed involved in hockey. He spent time on the Colorado Avalanche coaching staff from 2011-12 before becoming an assistant coach for the Spokane Chiefs, a junior team in the Western Hockey League, from 2017-20.
Cam Neely’s career may have started out slow, but it picked up speed once he was traded from Vancouver to the Boston Bruins. During his first season with the Bruins, Neely scored 50 goals. In total, he scored 395 goals and tallied 299 assists. Fans in Boston quickly grew to love the power forward who had multiple 50-goal seasons and helped bring the team to the Stanley Cup final in 1990 and ’91.
Neely was also known for being tough. In one game in 1994, Neely cut the tip of his finger through his glove early in the second period. He ended up getting stitches and returning to the game before the period ended. He had multiple knee injuries throughout his career, and they finally caught up with him in 1996 when he retired at 31.
Following his NHL career, Neely returned to the game as the president of hockey operations with the Bruins. He has also spent a lot of time managing the Cam Neely Foundation, a charity that helps families dealing with cancer. The foundation helps patients and their loved ones with housing and treatments.
Pavel Bure was known for skating with lightning speed before players like Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid made it the norm. He could weave through defenders easily, giving his teammates more chances to score. Before he retired, Bure scored 437 goals with 342 assists. His speed and unique style made him fun to watch as he confused goaltenders with his shots.
But like others on this list, Bure was plagued by injuries. He notably suffered an ACL tear in 1995, although that injury wasn’t a career-ender. He kept playing until his knee injuries worsened in the early 2000s and retired in 2005 at 32.
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