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Khan: Brian Rafalski’s comeback ends quickly

The Red Wings weren't particularly keen on talking to Brian Rafalski until he proved he could play at at least the AHL level at age 40, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that Rafalski has decided to halt his comeback after his back issues flared up:

Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski has ended his comeback attempt with the EHCL’s Florida Everblades, retiring for good.

“I’m done,” Rafalski told the Fort Myers News-Press. “My back is no good. That was one of the hurdles.”

Rafalski, 40, played only three games with the Everblades, picking up one assist. He told the News-Press that his back acted up after his first game on Jan. 10 and experienced more back pain after playing on consecutive nights, Jan. 17-18.

“After playing two games, it inflamed the nerves in my back so I’m done,” Rafalski said. “I felt like I played pretty well the last game. I was getting my timing and the game seemed to slow down.”

Update: The Detroit Free Press reprinted the Ft. Myers News-Press's Craig Handel's article:

“After playing two games, it inflamed the nerves in my back, so I’m done,” he said. “I felt like I played pretty well the last game. I was getting my timing, and the game seemed to slow down.”

Rafalski told Everblades coach Greg Poss he wouldn’t be able to make last weekend’s trip for games at South Carolina and Orlando. Florida lost all three.

“I’m getting some mobility back,” he said as he bent down. “It feels pretty loose, but I can feel when I get down here (inches from his feet). There’s no reason to keep going. This is not something you can push or play through or goes away.”

Rafalski will continue to remain close to the team as a spiritual adviser who holds chapel for the players. And even though he played with the Everblades for only a short time, Poss said he made an impact.

“He did a really good job for us, and we’re grateful to have him for those games,” the coach said. “He’s a really good person to have around the team. He was battling back to get in shape but at the same time, when you get injured like that, it’s hard to get in shape. You’re fighting an uphill battle. It’s just hard to play pro sports at 40.”

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MsRedWinger's avatar

Not surprised.  When he retired from the Wings, his back was bad.  Sounds like he missed the game a lot, thus the try in the ECHL.  I feel bad for him, but I can’t believe anyone really expected him to be able to make a come back.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 01/28/14 at 07:06 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I was hoping that he would do well and at least be able to enjoy being in the ECHL. He apparently lives in the Fort Myers area and it ain’t bad being able to play amongst a bunch of youngsters and in front of your kids. I may not be a particularly religious person but I respect his sense of being on something of a mission from God.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/28/14 at 07:09 PM ET

Alan's avatar

Guess he wasn’t meant to play again, after all.

Hey, he gave it a shot, at least.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 01/28/14 at 07:16 PM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

Shoot. I was looking forward to watching him play here against the local Greenville Road Warriors in a week.

I would love for him to coach Almquist on the skills he needs to play in the NHL as a smaller in stature d-man. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 01/28/14 at 07:31 PM ET


Talk about an underdog from the start, all the respect in the world to Rafalski.  He’s a champion and clearly dedicated to his family.  His body is just broken down.  Was glad to see him pop up at the alumni games, since I can’t remember hearing anything on him from the time he retired until then.

With Lids in Sweden it would be good move to have him as a mentor for the defensemen.  Cheli seems to have other things on his plate, so why not Rafalski?

Then again if they could just sew his head on Quincy’s body the backend would be set.

Posted by maltby18 on 01/28/14 at 07:37 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.