Longtime NHL forward Joel Ward has officially announced his retirement. He played for the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and San Jose Sharks.
There isn’t much NHL news thanks to the season’s hiatus. However, Monday, April 27 saw some news from a now former NHL forward. Forward Joel Ward, who played 11 seasons in the league, announced his retirement via a Player’s Tribune article. He spent four of his 11 seasons with the Washington Capitals from 2011 to 2015.
Ward got his first cup of coffee in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild during the 2006-07 season. In that campaign, he put up one assist in 11 games after signing a deal with the Wild as an undrafted free agent.
After the 2008 season, the Nashville Predators gave him a contract and that’s where Ward proved he belonged in the NHL full-time. He quickly became a favorite of head coach Barry Trotz, as he posted 35 points in his first season while playing about 16 minutes per game.
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Ward followed that up with another strong season in 2009-10, posting 34 points in 71 games. This season is when he began to build his reputation as a surprisingly productive player in the postseason. In six Stanley Cup Playoff games that season, Ward posted four points in six games.
After the 2010-11 season, Ward hit free agency for the first time in his career following a very impressive postseason (13 points in 12 games). The Washington Capitals were looking for some postseason producers, so they signed him to a four-year deal. Many thought they overpaid for him, but it turns out Ward became a critical piece for them.
In his first two seasons with the Capitals, he posted 38 points between 112 combined games. However, something clicked for Ward after the 2012-13 season, as that’s when his production started closely resembling what he did in Nashville. Ward set his career-high in points with 49 during the 2013-14 season.
During the 2014-15 season, his last one with the Capitals, Ward put up 34 points in 82 games. However, he was quite productive during the postseason. In 14 games, he picked up nine points, including three goals. One of those goals was a memorable last second goal in regulation against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the second round.
The Capitals couldn’t keep him for salary cap reasons, so he left in free agency to sign with the San Jose Sharks. In his first season with the Sharks, he remained productive, as Ward had 43 points, the second-highest single season total of his career. His 21 goals that season were also the second-most he had in any season. Ward spent two more seasons with the Sharks, totaling 84 points in 209 regular season games.
What makes Ward so special is he was a very late bloomer. He didn’t even play in his first NHL game until he was 26 years old. Also, Ward is a minority, as he’s black, which makes him a rarity in professional hockey. He was a popular player every where he went and especially loved spending time at the hockey rink at Fort Dupont in Washington, DC.