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Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski retires via a surreal presser

Updated 11x at 2:32 PM: Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski made his retirement official this morning, choosing to speak from a lecturn at Joe Louis Arena’s Olympia Club and then exit with his wife instead of doing one-on-one interviews. Rafalski joked that there were no telepropters available until 2012, so he spoke via notes from his iPad, and he stated that he’d chosen to retire 2 months ago, but kept the decision to himself and his wife; he stated that he’s not sure whether he’s going to spend his post-retirement days in Detroit; he suggested that he was injured all year long, stating that he spent every day on the trainer’s table, meaning that a big part of his decision to retire involved injuries, but he also said that his oldest son becoming a high school freshman played into his decision…As did God. Lots and lots and lots of God.

Rafalski repeatedly thanked the Lord and said that his top priorities involved serving God, serving his family and serving others, and if hockey’s not in the top three, it’s time to go. Rafalski was clearly uncomfortable speaking to a big gathering of press corps, so he wrapped his retirement presser’s comments in religion, as if that was what he could lean upon to keep his poise and not tear up. After the presser, he left the talking to Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Mike Babcock.

Here’s a survey of the “Tweets” sent during the presser, with updates and stories to come:

Tom Leyden’s Tweets:

Rafalski: This was the most challenging season of my career. Decision made about two months ago. #RedWings
Rafalski didn’t tell his #RedWings teammates until a couple of days ago, despite making decision two months ago. Didn’t want focus on him

NHL.com’s Brian Hedger weighs in:

Rafalski: ‘Decision as made between myself and my wife. Came down to priorities. Serving God and serving others.” #Redwings
Rafalski: ‘Had a few people express sadness about this decision. We’re not looking at it like that. We’re looking at it as an opportunity.’
Rafalski on leaving $6 million on the table: ‘As far as money goes, there are more important things.’
Rafalski said that injuries were also a big factor in his decision to retire. Spent a lot of time on the trainer’s table this season.
Rafalski said he came to this decision two months ago.
Rafalski: ‘Being on the training table every day was getting tiresome and wasn’t as much fun coming to the rink because of that.’
Rafalski: ‘No one tried to talk me out of it. Did seek advice from close friends and advisers everyone was supportive.’
Rafalski on Wings: They’re so deep in the front office and coaching. Everything will work itself out. I have no doubt about that. #Redwings
Rafalski: ‘The game’s changed even since I came in. You’ve got to find new ways to be successful and speed is always at a premium.’

Here’s the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff...

Rafalski: probably most challenging season of my career. #redwings
Rafalski made decision to retire 2 months ago after talking it over with wife. #redwings
Rafalski “don’t want any mourning. It’s a celebration. We’re going to have a party.” #redwings
Rafalski: Opportunity of lifetime to play for #redwings.
Rafalski: “This organization has never had a problem filling holes.” #redwings

And here are Tweets from the Red Wings:

Teammates spotted so far: Draper, Howard, Bertuzzi and Zetterberg.
Rafalski: I am here to announce my retirement.
Rafalski said the decision came between him and his wife two months ago. Wanted to serve his family and serve others.
Rafalski credits teammates and coaches. “I’ve learned from every single one of my coaches. They’ve allowed me to grow and improve myself.”
Packed room here at the Olympia Club for Rafalski’s retirement. http://yfrog.com/h822mpzij
Rafalski: We looked at every aspect of our lives. With our son going into his freshman year of high school, that’s a big factor.
Rafalski: As far as money goes, there are more important things.
Rafalski: It was the opportunity of a lifetime to come here. The quality of players. The quality of the organization from top to bottom.
Rafalski: This organization has never had a problem with filling holes and finding players that do what they need them to do.
Rafalski chats with Jim Nill after the press conference to announce his retirement. http://yfrog.com/h7p02nij

Update: Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s initial report:

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski made it official this morning, announcing his retirement after 11 NHL seasons, the past four in Detroit.

“This was probably the most challenging season of my career, physically, mentally, emotionally,’’ Rafalski said during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena.

He said he made the decision with his wife two months ago.

Here’s the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James’ initial report:

Citing injuries that hampered his effectiveness, Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski announced today that he is done playing.

“After 15 years of playing professional hockey, I’d like to announce my retirement,” Rafalski said during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena, adding he made the decision two months ago. “It’s been a challenging season, both physically mentally and spiritually, but also rewarding. It’s time for me to move on.”

Rafalski, 37, had one season at $6 million left on the five-year deal he signed with the Wings in the summer of 2007.

Rafalski departs having weaved a tapestry that’s taken him from his hometown of Dearborn to playing college hockey at Wisconsin, to going undrafted by any NHL team. He instead began his pro career in Sweden, moved to Finland, and didn’t make it to the NHL until he was 26, when he was signed by New Jersey.

He had a great deal of success with the Devils, winning Stanley Cups with them in 2000 and 2003. He signed with the Wings in ’07, and went on to win a third Cup that spring.

He won silver with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Games, where he was named the tournament’s best defenseman.

Here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s initial report…

Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski announced his retirement as an NHL player during a press conference Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

Rafalski, 37, who is from Dearborn, played in the NHL for 11 seasons, the first seven with New Jersey and the last four with Detroit.

“I’ve been very fortunate and have had so many great experiences playing in the NHL,” Rafalski said.

Rafalski won two Stanley Cups with the Devils and one with the Wings, in 2008. He had four goals and 10 assists in 22 games in the 2008 playoffs.

Rafalski played in 833 regular-season games, with 79 goals and 436 assists.

Update 1.5: Here’s the Sports Network’s report...

Three-time Stanley Cup winning defenseman Brian Rafalski has decided to call it a career after 11 seasons in the NHL.

After beginning his pro career in Europe, Rafalski spent seven years with the New Jersey Devils before playing his last four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.

Injuries and other issues, including family life, prompted the 37-year-old native of Dearborn, Michigan to make the decision.

“The decision was made about two months ago, with my wife, weighing different factors in our lives,” Rafalski said at a Wednesday press conference. “With hockey not being at the top, it was time to move on. [My] son being a freshman in high school next year was a big factor.”

Rafalski helped Detroit to the 2008 Stanley Cup title after winning the championship with the Devils in 2000 and 2003.

“I was able to play for two world class organizations,” Rafalski added. “The staffs at both places were excellent.”

Over 833 career games with the Devils and Red Wings, Rafalski compiled 79 goals and 436 assists. He notched four goals and 44 assists for 48 points in a career-low 63 games this past season.

“There wasn’t a day this year I wasn’t on a training table,” Rafalski stated when asked about injuries. “It played a factor. It made me adjust how I played the game this year, but I’m still standing here and that’s a good thing.”

I fired off some Tweets as well.

Update #2: Via The Hockey News’s Lyle “Spector” Richardson:

He’s walking away from the final year on his contract, which will clear $6 million of cap space from Detroit’s payroll in 2011-12 and provide GM Ken Holland with an opportunity to go shopping this summer.

Potential targets for the Wings include: Boston’s Tomas Kaberle, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff, Montreal’s James Wisniewski and Andrei Markov and the Rangers’ Bryan McCabe.

Holland has the option of investing all of the $6 million into one “name” defenseman, or towards more depth by signing two blueliners with less skill, but more affordable salaries.

It’s also possible Holland will go the offer sheet route and target restricted free agents such as Nashville’s Shea Weber or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, but the GM would have to offer up more than $6 million to pry either away from their team.

Holland’s blueline problems will be compounded if team captain Nicklas Lidstrom also decides to retire, but given the 41-year-old is still playing at a high level (he’s nominated for the Norris Trophy this season), there’s a sense he will return for another season.

Kulfan, Take two:

“This was probably the most challenging season of my career,” said Rafalski, 37, of the numerous injuries. “Physically, mentally and spiritually.”
“There wasn’t a day this year I wasn’t on the training table,” Rafalski said. “It played a role (in his decision to retire). I wasn’t able to skate the way I’d like to. It wasn’t as much fun coming to the rink.”
“There are more important things,” Rafalski said.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime — the style of play, the quality of players and quality of the organization from top to bottom,” Rafalski said. “When I heard they (the Wings) were interested (several years ago), I was very excited. It definitely gave me a fresh start.”
Rafalski said he decided to retire about two months ago.

“It came down to priorities,” Rafalski said. “My serving God and my family and others. When hockey wasn’t at the top, it’s time to move on.”

update #2.5: Here’s the Associated Press’s initial story:

Brian Rafalski has retired from the NHL.

The three-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic silver medallist confirmed his decision Wednesday.

Rafalski says spending time with his family in good health is more important than the US$6 million he would’ve made next season in the final year of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

The 37-year-old Rafalski had knee and back injuries that limited him to a career-low 63 games last season, finishing with just four goals. He had 79 goals and 515 points in 12 seasons with New Jersey and his hometown Red Wings.

Rafalski helped the Devils win two Stanley Cups and Detroit hoist one. The native of Dearborn, Mich., played for the U.S. in losses to Canada in the 2010 and 2002 gold-medal games.

And here’s the Wings’ official press release:


...Veteran Rearguard a Three-Time Stanley Cup Champion with New Jersey and Detroit …

Detroit, MI… Brian Rafalski, a three-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman with the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, announced today that he will retire from the National Hockey League after 11 seasons.  Rafalski appeared in 833 regular season games, 154 postseason contests and made five trips to the Stanley Cup Final during his career.

The 37-year-old Rafalski played his first NHL game in 1999 after signing as an undrafted free agent with New Jersey .  He spent three seasons in Finland and one in Sweden prior to joining the Devils and was touted at the time by The Hockey News as “the best defenseman not playing in the National Hockey League.”  During his rookie campaign, Rafalski ranked second among first year blue-liners with 32 points (5 goals-27 assists—32 points).  He was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team and won his first Stanley Cup championship that year, appearing in all 23 playoff games for the Devils.

Rafalski played a total of seven seasons in New Jersey from 1999-00 through 2006-07.  During that time, he appeared in 541 regular season games (44-267—311) and 102 postseason contests (17-43—60).  He was selected to represent New Jersey at three NHL All-Star Games (2002, 2004, 2007), but appeared in just two, as he was unable to participate in 2002 due to injury.  He added a second Stanley Cup title to his resume in 2003.

On July 1, 2007, Rafalski signed a five-year contract with his hometown Detroit Red Wings.  The Dearborn , MI , native made an immediate impact, scoring a career-high 13 goals and tying his previous high with 55 points.  He teamed with partner Nicklas Lidstrom to form the highest scoring blue-line duo in the NHL (125 total points).  His stellar play continued into the playoffs as Rafalski played in all 22 postseason contests for the Red Wings, registering 14 points (4-10—14).  He helped the Red Wings capture the 2008 Stanley Cup, the third of his career.  Rafalski would don the winged wheel for 292 regular season games from 2007-08 through 2010-11, while posting 204 points (35-169—204).  He also appeared in 63 postseason games for Detroit , registering 40 points (12-28—40). 

Rafalski also found success at the international level.  He represented the United States at numerous IIHF competitions throughout his playing career including the World Junior Championships (1992 and 1993), the World Championships (1995 and 1998), the World Cup (2004) and the Olympic Winter Games (2002, 2006 and 2010).  Highlights of his international career include two Olympic sliver medals with Team USA (2002 in Salt Lake City and 2010 in Vancouver ).  He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding defenseman at last year’s Olympics.

Update 2.75: As an aside, the Swedish press, via Aftonbladet and and Expressen, is freaking out about the fact that the Wings will re-sign Dick Axelsson. They’re convinced it means Axelsson could play with the Wings, which isn’t going to happen.

Update #3: Khan, part 2:

“This was probably the most challenging season of my career, physically, mentally and spiritually, but it was also the most rewarding,’’ Rafalski said during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “The decision was made between myself and my wife approximately two months ago. We went through a long process of weighing different factors in our lives and at the end of the day it came down to priorities, with the top three priorities being serving God, serving my family and serving others. With hockey not being at the top, it’s time for me to move on.’‘

Rafalski, 37, had one year remaining on his contract at $6 million. Several factors went into his decision.

“We took all factors into account, we looked at every aspect of our lives,’’ Rafalski said. “My oldest son being a freshman next year in high school was a big factor. What I’ll be doing, first and foremost, is serving my family. I’ll definitely be looking to help others. I don’t know what that’s going to entail yet. As far as the money goes, there’s more important things now.’‘

He was worn down by injuries—back surgery last summer, arthroscopic knee surgery in October, back spasms late in the season and a sore knee in the playoffs.

“The injuries took a toll. There wasn’t a day this year that I wasn’t on the training table. That gets tiring,’’ Rafalski said. “But at the same time the training staff did an excellent job. I wasn’t able to skate the way I’d like to. It made me adjust how I approach how I play the game. I’m still standing here, so that’s a good thing. Hopefully I’m standing here in another 10-20 years.’‘

St. James, Part 3:

“After 15 years of playing professional hockey, I’m here to announce my retirement,” Rafalski said during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “This was probably the most challenging season of my career, both physically, mentally and spiritually, but it was the also the most rewarding and most blessed.

“The decision was made between myself and my wife approximately two months ago. We went through a long process of weighing different factors in our lives. At the end of the day it came down to priorities, with the top three priorities being serving God, serving my family and serving others. With hockey not being at the top, it’s time for me to move on.”

The presser started 10 minutes later to accommodate the many teammates who were running a little late because of the torrential downpours. Those in attendance included Todd Bertuzzi, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood.

“I’d like to thank everyone for coming in this weather,” Rafalski said. “I’m glad I was able to grab a few of you from the Oprah retirement today, which is also very big news.”

Rafalski said he brought his iPad for notes, and joked he’d asked team public relations director John Hahn for a teleprompter, “but he said the White House has them all booked up till 2012.”

Ted Kulfan, part 3:

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime — the style of play, the quality of players and quality of the organization from top to bottom,” Rafalski said. “When I heard they (the Wings) were interested (several years ago), I was very excited. It definitely gave me a fresh start.”

Rafalski missed 19 games during the season because of arthroscopic knee surgery, which delayed the start of his season, and back problems later in the schedule. In 11 playoff games, Rafalski had two goals and one assist but rarely was able to practice because of his knee problems.

Rafalski said he decided to retire about two months ago.

“It came down to priorities,” Rafalski said. “My serving God and my family and others. When hockey wasn’t at the top, it’s time to move on.”

He added: “I’ve been very fortunate and have had so many great experiences playing in the NHL.”

Via the AP’s Carlos Orsoio:

And the AP:

And WXYT just posted an audio clip of the Rafalski presser. It’s not embeddable.

Update #4: Via NHL.com’s Hedger:

Tried to tweet this earlier from phone, but smartphone is acting dumb today. Lidstrom will let Holland know decision before NHL Entry Draft
Holland said he’s crossing his fingers and toes for “great news” regarding Lidstrom’s decision.
For those who like to read into things, Mike Babcock’s wife said she saw Lidstrom at the gym on Monday and he was working out hard.
Holland said the #Redwings will explore all options to fill the gap on defense, including trades and open free agent market on July 1

Update #5: I mentioned Hedger’s Tweets in an entry in which Pierre LeBrun spoke to Holland about Nicklas Lidstrom...

And Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji gauged the Wings’ teammates’ reactions to Rafalski leaving a game he’d changed:

“It’s a whole different game,” [Chris] Chelios said. “He’s been able to change with the evolution of the speed. Real smart, headsy player, Rafi. You’re not going to get too many smarter guys like that. His skill level, being able to be a penalty killer, power play, just showed a real intelligent, (University of) Wisconsin-bred defenseman. He developed and then he went to Europe to make his game even better and was ready to come to the NHL. He’s a quality guy, quality teammate. If I could have talked him out of it (retirement), I would.”

Kris Draper echoed Chelios’ sentiment that it was Rafalski’s intelligence that helped make him the player he was.

“Just one of those guys where you play against him, you want to hit him, you want to take him out every time he goes back to get the puck, but he’s very smart,” Draper said. “Sometimes you don’t even see him because there’s a bigger body over him. The next thing you know Rafi comes out with the puck.”

Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who said he was caught off-guard on vacation in Miami when he heard about Rafalski’s retirement, said the veteran would be missed.

“He’s such a great role model for young guys, guys that are developing into being defensemen,” Howard said. “He’s just so good at making that first pass out of the zone and as a goalie, you’re going to miss that.”

Draper said smaller kids who have seen Rafalski play and excel at the NHL level have hope because of him.

“It’s a great success story for young kids, young hockey players, young athletes,” Draper said. “If you believe in yourself and this is your dream, you know what? Go get it. That’s exactly what Rafi did.”

Also, from the Sporting News’s Craig Custance:

Really impressed with Rafalski’s strong faith today. That seemed to play a big role in his retirement. His next step, he said, is serving.
Ken Holland sounds open to the idea of a trade to replace Rafalski. Most likely at draft. Agreed that this isn’t the best UFA crop.

Update #6: Here’s the official word, from DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:

“The decision was made between my wife and myself, approximately two months ago,” said Rafalski, at a news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “At the end of the day it came down to priorities with the top three priorities being: serving God, serving my family, and serving others. With hockey not being at the top, it’s time to move on.”

Sighting ongoing back and knee injuries that have plagued him over the last few seasons, Rafalski said the $6 million in salary, which he left in the table, couldn’t convince him to return for a 12th NHL season.

“The injuries have paid a toll, and there wasn’t a day this year where I wasn’t on the training table,” said Rafalski, who missed 36 games in four seasons with the Wings. “As far as the money goes, there are more important things now.”
“When you saw what he went through the last few years, it’s pretty hard to keep playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Several of Wings teammates attended the announcement to show their support for Rafalski. Wings center Kris Draper, who along with goalie Chris Osgood, are also eligible for free agency in July, said Rafalski’s message wasn’t lost on the Wings’ veterans in the audience.

“All the stuff that he was saying, you can appreciate where it’s coming from,” Draper said. “When Rafi is talking about why he walked away from the game, when you look at priorities it makes sense. And that’s the one thing when people do leave the game it has to make sense to them, and obviously, Rafi is right where he wants to be right now.”
“For us, we lost one heck of a hockey player,” Draper said. “That’s the selfish part of us – is wanting to have Brian Rafalski back for another year – because he’s so good and such a big part of our success.”

Update #7: Here’s Mike Babcock speaking to the Fan 590’s Darren Millard and Nick Kypreos:

Download file

Babcock says that he knew that Rafalski would retire for some time, and he does believe that Lidstrom, who was working out with Tomas Holmstrom the other day, will probably return.

In fact, Babcock says that Rafalski let the team know he wanted to retire a few months ago, and reaffirmed his decision after the season…

And he says that he couldn’t watch the first game of the Vancouver-Sharks series because it made him sick to his stomach.

Update #8: On Bertuzzi, via St. James:

Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi is doing better but hasn’t yet been cleared from the concussion he suffered in the last game of the playoffs.

Bertuzzi was at Joe Louis Arena today to work out and attend the retirement news conference of teammate Brian Rafalski.

“I’m feeling better,” Bertuzzi said. “I skated yesterday, worked out today. It’s getting better.”

Bertuzzi said he’ll undergo baseline testing again next week. He suffered a concussion during an awkward collision with San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley in Game 7 of the second-round series, which the Wings lost.

Update #9: Here’s Rafalski’s presser, via the Red Wings’ website (and RedWingsFeed):

Now you can watch Babs’ interview, too:


Update #9.5: Here’s the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s report:

“The injuries took a toll,” Rafalski said. “There wasn’t a day this year that I wasn’t on the training table. That gets tiring. But at the same time the training staff did an excellent job. It played a role. I wasn’t able to skate the way I’d like to,” Rafalski added. “It made me adjust how I approach how I play the game. I’m still standing here, so that’s a good thing. Hopefully I’m standing here in another 10-20 years.”

In 2007, the Wings needed to replace Mathieu Schneider after he signed with Anaheim. That offseason, Rafalski, a Dearborn native, signed a five-year, $30 million free-agent contract.

“He was so effective moving the puck,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He was always strong on the power play. He’s going to be sorely missed. He’s a great personality and a great guy in the room. He brought a lot of character to this team. I was shocked,” Howard said when he heard the news. “I was down in Miami on vacation when I heard Brian was retiring. I was very surprised.”

Rafalski won three Stanley Cups in his career, two with the New Jersey Devils and on in Detroit (2008).

“We just lost one heck of a hockey player,” Wings forward Kris Draper said. “That’s the selfish part in us, we wanted to have Brian Rafalski back for one more year playing because he’s a good player and has been a major part of our success.”

Update #10: From the Lidstrom post, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Speaking today after Brian Rafalski announced his retirement, Babcock was encouraged his top defenseman [Nicklas Lidstrom] will return rather than retire.

“This is a good report,” Babcock said. “I’ll give it to you right from my wife. She was at the gym yesterday, and Nick was working out like crazy. She said his shirt was soaked. I was so excited to hear that, you have no idea. That’s insider reporting right there. That’s the scoop.”

Babcock also revealed that, as far as he knows, Lidstrom left today for a little holiday with forward Tomas Holmstrom.

The Wings are optimistic Lidstrom, 41, will come back and play another year. Currently, the only players signed on Detroit’s defense are Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Jakub Kindl and minor leaguer Doug Janik, who is on a one-way contract but most likely will stay in the minors. Brendan Smith is going to get a good look at training camp, but the Wings probably would rather he play 20 minutes per game in Grand Rapids than five or six minutes in Detroit. Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei are eligible to become unrestricted free agents, and it’s unlikely Salei will return.

General manager Ken Holland said he’ll convene with his scouting staff in mid-June to discuss how to fill the hole left by Rafalski; options include potential unrestricted free agents such as Kevin Bieksa, Ed Jovanovski, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, James Wisniewski, Eric Brewer, Tomas Kaberle, Christian Ehrhoff, Bryan McCabe and Roman Hamrlik.

“We’re going to explore the market,” Holland said. “We’re not going to blow our brains out.”

Update 10.5: Khan, part 3:

“It turned out to be absolutely a great move for both sides,’’ general manager Ken Holland said. “I’m not sure if we win the Cup in ‘08 without Brian Rafalski. He was that important to us. Not only was he a real good player, he was a perfect fit for Nick Lidstrom, he was a right shot, the two of them were as good a tandem as there was in the NHL. It’s going to be a real tough loss for us but I’m happy for him, he’s made a difficult decision for the right reasons.’‘

Update 10.75: The Free Press posted an 8-image gallery from the presser.

Update 10.9: Here’s WXYZ’s video of the presser, via Tom Leyden:

Update #11: Per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“Obviously, July 1 is a day we’re looking toward a little more than we were prior to today,” Holland said Wednesday after Rafalski’s press conference to announce his retirement. “We’ve got more cap money, but obviously a big hole on defense. We’d love to have Brian Rafalski. There’s not a lot of Brian Rafalskis out there.”

Holland indicated the Wings could patch up their holes on defense either through trades or free agents. Trades are usually completed at the NHL entry draft; this year that’s June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn. But Holland acknowledged teams aren’t likely to trade defensemen, which makes the free-agent pool — which isn’t particularly deep — a priority. The Wings could have as much as $18 million to spend — depending on what happens with Lidstrom, Ericsson, and unrestricted free-agent forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller.

“We’ll have to set our sights on July 1,” Holland said. “There are some good players, but you expect some people to be signed (by their respective teams) between now and July 1.”

Holland will sit down with his pro scouts during organizational meetings June 14-16 and determine a list of players they’d like to pursue.

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Sal's avatar

Raffy never tried to hide his politics and it isn’t surprising that an evangelical Christian belief system is a part of that.  He was interviewed for one of those get-to-know-the-team videos either this year or last and the question had something to do with what he was reading.  He answered “A Patriot’s History of the United States” and he highly recommended it.  Just this little tidbit is all the info you need to guess his political leanings.  I believe he also mentioned being a fan of Glen Beck, either in that same clip or a different one, I don’t recall.

He has also been active on behalf of his teammates and other players in fighting the State of Tennessee’s ridiculous law that charges a pro athlete a tax so high for any game played in the state that lower wage players often must pay more in taxes than they earn in salary for playing the game.  Players on NFL teams are, of course, exempt and the Predators players hit the max limit so quickly that it doesn’t really affect them, especially as there is no state income tax.  Though I have to wonder how someone so firmly entrenched in a conservative political belief system can also be very active in his players union.  Bit of cognitive dissonance there.

Brian Rafalski was a hell of a hockey player and will be missed.

Posted by Sal from the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains on 05/25/11 at 11:43 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

stick tap to Rafi

May God be pleased to bless you for His glory.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 05/25/11 at 11:48 PM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

Jeez cowboy lighten up.  You think he is “Outspoken Republican”. He talks about God being a big part of his life. This was HIS retirement speech. In America, you are allowed to make jokes about presidents and speak freely about your religion and how it affects you. That is what makes this the greatest country in the world. This is not the forum to criticize a man with the God given skills to play the game which we all love on his retirement day. Maybe you should get a job as an editor . Check Yahoo for starters

I won’t get into a Dem/Rep argument as this is a hockey blog . Best of luck to Raffi and hope he finds his place in life with his body pain eased to have a prosperous and productive retirement.

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 05/25/11 at 11:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Okay, okay, we get it…

Look, I understand that we’re all kinda emotional to begin with because we as fans are dealing with the surprise retirement of a huge part of the team, and that offers some serious-ass mixed feelings—is he leaving too early? too late? leaving money on the table because of a lack of desire or leaving money on the table because he’s rich? etc. etc.

And yeah, the God stuff and the political stuff were a bit much. But it was his presser and the least religious players in the world start going on and on about God and country when they’re trying to keep it together during a retirement press conference.

It kinda was his party and he was allowed to make an Obama joke and talk about God to no end if he wanted to.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s walking around with a bible in one hand and a picture of Ronald Reagan in the other.

So I let this talk go because we need to vent one way or another, but I want to make it very clear that this is a hockey website, my blog is a hockey blog and here we don’t discriminate based upon political or religious beliefs.

TMR works by my dad’s rule—there are good people and there are assholes, and the rest of it doesn’t matter.

So what’s said here will have been said here and if anybody made a fool of themselves we’ll write it off as retirement day stuff just as I would like to think that Raffy will be remembered for his play and the fact that he’s a decent guy over the fact that his presser was a little eye-opening and maybe eyebrow-raising.

And let’s leave it at that, okay?

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/26/11 at 12:06 AM ET

Chet's avatar

sounds about right to me.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 05/26/11 at 12:51 AM ET

Sal's avatar

One thing Raffy mentioned about his newly restored faith caught my ear.  He credited Tom Fraser, the Red Wings team chaplain.  I didn’t realize they had one, though it shouldn’t be that great a surprise, I suppose.  The Evangelical Christian movement has made a concerted effort to have high profile athletes use their fame and position to espouse a particular strain of Christianity.  It’s no accident football players started having prayer circles at the 50 yard line before and after games.  These ministries also have ties to the conservative political movement.

What the guys do in the locker room is their own business unless it start to affect the cohesiveness of the team.  But I hope to never see a prayer circle at center ice.

Posted by Sal from the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains on 05/26/11 at 12:57 AM ET


Personally, it’s his day. To get the disclaimers out of the way, I’m Christian, but if the player says he wants to thank his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me in the least. He knows who he has to thank, and nervous people talk a lot.

One point though, in danger of inflaming things further in response to the above. There was a poll about 20 years ago there was a poll asking what percentage of evangelical Christians thought of themselves as Democrat or Republican. More “evangelicals” called themselves DEMOCRATS.

Things certainly could have changed since, but all I ask (and believe me, I don’t belong to any party) is to do as George said: pay your respects to a classy talented player, and let it go at that. No biases or politics, please. I come here to be entertained by George and escape heated real-life discussions, and I hope the rest of you do, too.

Posted by bugsy from GR on 05/26/11 at 07:25 AM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

It kinda was his party and he was allowed to make an Obama joke and talk about God to no end if he wanted to.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s walking around with a bible in one hand and a picture of Ronald Reagan in the other.

Hey, he could have wrote his speech on the palms of his hands. Zing. tongue wink

All kidding aside, Thanks Raffi.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 05/26/11 at 11:50 AM ET


I looked up the adjective “surreal” in the thesaurus, and it came up with “unreal, bizarre, unusual, weird, strange, freakish, unearthly, uncanny, dreamlike, phantasmagorical.” I’m not quite too sure what business it had modifying Brian Rafalski’s retirement speech. Because it seemed like an utterly banal retirement speech to me: the appeal to wanting to be there for his family, struggling through injuries, and wanting to serve God. So… what’s so strange about all that? That he was nervous in front of the press? (With the responses on here, who can blame him?)

Doubtless it was the God bit, right? His jokes at the beginning might have dropped dead, but do you really think he slipped in the scripture there just because he was nervous? That, spur of the moment, to keep from losing it, he quoted Romans 8:28…? Even when it seemed planned? His number appeared in the citation, and it was apropos of what he wanted to leave the audience with: a knowledge that his decision will be for the greater good, even if it seems sad now…?  I guess God just isn’t cool or appropriate anymore.  I’m not very religious nor do I share his political leanings, but if he had quoted Confucius’ Analects or say, the Koran, would you have characterized it as “surreal”?

People are acting like this is some strange revelation that Rafalski has faith or that he’s kinda conservative. I’ve long known he attended Southfield Christian High, so why is it such a surreal shock to know he has faith in God? This article, as well as many comments, reek of that same adolescent annoyance with church that causes teen writers to spell God with a lower case ‘g’ (It’s a proper noun, having nothing to do with God’s existence. Get over it!). 

Karl Marx wrote that religion was the opiate of the masses. We think of opiates as these illicit terrible things that destroy lives needlessly. And they certainly were that in Marx’ day; however, in 1844, motrin and aleve didn’t exist, and opiates were about the only thing that provided comfort for pain. Marx wasn’t saying religion destroyed lives, so it ought to be outlawed; he was saying religion brings a lot of comfort to people in pain. Plain and simple.

While I’m on the subject, we lately found out that the cause of Derek Boogaard’s unfortunate death was a mixture of oxycontin and booze. I highly doubt Boogaard took opiates just for kicks. He had serious injuries, which gave him access to those drugs. Don’t be so naive to think Rafalski didn’t have access to the same drugs, given his chronic back and knee pain. I’m not sayin he was addicted, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Oxycontin, heroin, laudanum—they’re all morphine once they break the blood-brain barrier—and as such are among the most addictive and destructive substances in the world, which scruple not to ruin the lives of even the most religious folks around. In a world that makes it so easy to rely on drugs, I respect a man who tries to rely on God. I wouldn’t take Rafalski’s God comments so lightly.

And it’s telePROMPTer.

Posted by RockinRyan from Assend of the Universe on 05/26/11 at 10:25 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I went with surreal because it kinda blew my mind. Yes, the religious part was a little off-putting for some, but it was just…

So Rafalski-like. Upset? No. Concerned about leaving $6 million on the table? No. Giving interviews afterward? No, I’ve got stuff to do with my family.

As in WOW that was the strangest, weirdest, most Rafalski-like retirement presser ever. It was so simple, so focused, so businesslike…I was stunned.

I didn’t take Rafalski’s God comments lightly. I assume that his faith is central to his life and that he was revealing an underlying belief system that helped get him through some serious-ass pain and suffering in terms of his back and knee, which sounded like they’d gotten to the point that they were incredibly painful.

I’ll throw this out there: I went to Catholic high school for seven years, I’m a confirmed Catholic and I nearly married a Church Lady, but I’m a classic lapsed Catholic.

In fact, I’d call myself a positive existentialist—which means that while I still celebrate Christmas and Easter and all of that (like a classic C&E Catholic, except that I don’t go to church), I tend to believe that it is entirely possible, if not probable, that existence is probably futile and the universe may very well be without being, but…

As such, my bent of existentialism suggests that even if the world and universe and life are all meaningless, futile, and maybe even a little ironic in the Alanis Morrisette sense of the term because we struggle so damn hard, life’s purpose is in making meaning and finding things in life that are meaningful to you and help you get by.

Under that framework, all positive religions are valid [edit: and you can include choosing agnostic and atheism as frameworks of belief in that category, too], if not extremely important because they give us tons and tons of meaning and make us feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves on the highest scale possible. To not respect religious belief and all the good things it can do (while acknowledging that not all is good about anything and that where there is power there’s usually some creepy stuff, too) is something that I simply refuse to do.

So there’s something I don’t ever want to talk about again (ditto for my political beliefs) right on the table. I respect Raffy’s beliefs and I didn’t mean to belittle them.

He’s not an *#$%@&, which must mean that, by my golden rule, my dad’s rule, he must be a good person. And I don’t want to bash a good person for believing what he does.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/26/11 at 10:49 PM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

i don’t think you belittled him. His retirement speech was normal for a football player, but you don’t often here one like that in hockey. It’s commentary worthy. I’ll miss Rafi.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 05/26/11 at 11:05 PM ET


George, fair enough. Thank you for your testimony and for taking it easy on all us lapsed sinners.

I did feel it important to mention, as tabloid-y as it felt, the fact that hard drugs wait at the door for many of these players. My boss and his brother played at the junior and division 1 college level, respectively, and in the lockers for both teams, bowls of uppers, downers, all-arounders—whatever they needed to get them up for the game—were sitting on benches in bowls like chalky after-dinner mints. 

Only tangentially related (at best): I saw a documentary called Very Young Girls, which documents how 13-year-old girls in inner cities fall prey to pimps. And in the end, one of the girls who had escaped prostitution (with all the drugs and chains, visible and invisible, that go along with it) was singing this Christian praise song. And I was turned off by it at first, you know, for no other reason than I despise that sort of music. But I had to stop and castigate myself a bit; for I can’t really appreciate what religion would mean to me if I were in her situation—not ever having known a father’s love, and thus never knowing what it was if I ran across it. What reason do I have for God when my life has been comparably easy?

Romans 8:28 does seem fitting for all us Red Wing fans who wonder what the team will be like in a post Lidstrom-Rafalski era. All things work for the greater good, or whatever. It has left so many Wings fans giddy with Christmas Eve avarice over which high-profile puck-moving defenseman they’ll purchase next. I can’t say I’m above all that speculation myself.

Posted by RockinRyan from Assend of the Universe on 05/29/11 at 03:57 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.


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