Hockey fans had just learned that Capitals goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would be unable to play in the 2020-21 season due to health reasons. Now a former Capitals goalie, Michal Neuvirth, has also announced he will be unable to play this season for health reasons.
Since leaving the NHL two seasons ago, Neuvirth has been under contract with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga. Neuvirth posted the news on his Facebook page.
“I decided to end this season for health reasons and I want to dedicate myself mainly to my family now. My dream is to play my last match for Sparta, in front of you fans who still support me and I believe it will come true… PS: Happy Christmas to everyone and happy new year 2021! Thank you very much for your support!”
The HC Sparta Praha website also released a message stating Neuvirth would not play this season due to long term health issues.
“We really wanted Michal to play for Sparta this year. Although it was really close, it didn’t work out. However, he only helped the team with his presence at the trainings, the young goalkeepers could learn a lot from him. Michal does not want to give up his dream of playing his last game for his club and we will support him as much as possible and we will help him.”
Jaroslav Hlinka, Sports Manager of HC Sparta, said, “It is possible that Michal will still stand in the goal. He deserves great respect not only for his entire career, but also for working hard for his return to Sparta. Maybe he hasn’t said the last word yet.”
Neuvirth stated the main reason for not playing was due to injuries and illness.
“I started training, but I was injured in a morning practice. I was supposed to play the first game in Litvínov, when I was stopped by an illness. I’m sorry the most. My dream is to play my last match for Sparta, in front of our fans, who still support me. Maybe It will still be fulfilled…”
Neuvirth said his hips were another reason for leaving the game.
“Mainly the hips, but it wasn’t just this part of the body. My health is not as I imagined. Still, for months I believed it would work. Many thanks especially to Peter Přikryl [goalie coach] who did a lot for me. I am very sorry that I have not yet been able to repay Sparta for the trust they placed in me. But health is only one thing. I have to look at what is best for me and my family now. But now we have decided to end this season.”
He talked about his future plans.
“I’m going on vacation with my family, I’m also waiting for some arrangements in America. And of course I’ll keep the boys from the room in mind and watch our every game.”
The Capitals drafted Neuvirth in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft with the 34th pick overall. He came over to North America and played with both the South Carolina Stingrays and Hershey Bears for the 2008-09 season and received his first NHL callup that season, making his NHL debut on February 14, 2009.
Neuvirth bounced between the Capitals and the Bears for the 2009-10. He backstopped the Bears to Calder Cups in the both 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. His first NHL season was in 2010-11.
He played in 134 games for the Capitals and 257 NHL games overall, including time with both the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. While with the Flyers, he met his future wife, Karolina, who was the sister of then teammate and eventual Capitals player, Radko Gudas.
Neuvirth’s record with the Caps was 59-41-13, with a Goals Against Average of 2.67 and a Save Percentage of .910. His overall NHL record was 105-93-26, a Goals Against Average of 2.71 and a Save Percentage of .910.
Neuvirth signed a tryout contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2019-20 season but played just 40 minutes in one of the pre-season games before he and the Leafs mutually terminated that contract. He then returned to the Czech Republic.
By Diane Doyle
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