Most famous in Caps Nation for being acquired (with Michael Latta) in the deal that sent Swedish phenom Filip Forsberg to Nashville, Martin Erat, 38, officially announced his retirement on Friday.
Erat played parts of two seasons for the Capitals before being traded to the Pheonix Coyotes during the 2013-2014 season. He had just two goals in 62 games played for the Capitals.
Erat played 900 games in the NHL, for Nashville, Washington and Phoenix/Arizona, before leaving for the KHL in 2015. He spent the last four seasons of his career in the Czech league.
Do you feel that the right time has come?
“Yes. It is final, the time has come. Anyway, I considered it a lot, I wanted to be 100% sure that I would make the right decision.”
What ultimately decided?
“Like the vast majority of boys, it’s family and health. Not one thing will allow me to continue playing.”
You’ve suffered a lot on the ice for the last two years, haven’t you?
“I have two plates in my back, there’s a hole up to twelve millimeters. So only surgery would do it, or I would have to constantly practice and try it with self-denial. So far, I’ve only undergone the latter, I’ve suffered a lot. But that was enough. Health is most important.”
You’ve said before that you don’t want to end up in a wheelchair.
“It is so. If I somehow stretched it artificially and didn’t listen to what my body was saying, it could turn out that way. I always wanted my kids to see me on the ice playing. Which came true for me. Plus, I’m flying cold with the little ones now, so I’ll have plenty of hockey. ”
What did you have to go through to jump in last season? Even if only for 16 games?
“I got injections, they gave me plasma to make up for it. They numbed my nerves at the spine, which usually lasts about six months. But it’s no fun, because when they stab you, they don’t know exactly how the nerves will react. So I spent a lot of time with the doctors. When I went to the ice, I knew it would never be the same again. It cost me a lot of self-denial and renunciation. I could skate, but the worst were the hits. Especially when it comes unexpectedly. I still managed one match, but the whole season? That wouldnt work…”
A year ago, you considered whether to go for it …
“When we talked about it with Libor (Zábranský – the head of the club) last year, we discussed all possibilities. He was in favor of me still playing, but I told him I could only prepare for the playoffs. And I don’t know if what I’m going to show this season will be exactly that. But I’m going to be 100% ready to fight for the title. Libor reacted with exaggeration: Just don’t tell people! Because they pay all the time. I’ve always said that I understand that I apologize for that, but that’s just how I have it set in me. It’s the same as going to a concert. You also want to hear from the singer to sing the biggest gems in TOP form. And you know that a song won’t be quite that … I had it so much that I knew that in the basic part, my health limited me. I had the advantage of being able to rest after the games, put in a pile and get ready for the elimination part. I was all the more looking forward to it.”
Even so, you and Kometa celebrated two titles at the end of your career, so a fabulous conclusion, right?
“When I was returning from abroad and went to Brno, I saw Libor’s plan for where the club wants to go. Which I liked. But I have to say that what the fans showed exceeded my expectations. That was a piece of cake. Playing in front of such a backdrop … You can’t see that. Hockey is a sacrament for fans, it’s felt all over the city. Elsewhere, as players, we could go sit somewhere in the evening, there was always a madhouse. It’s unbelievable how people live by hockey. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to my career. That was a dream.”
You can read the entire interview ($$) here.