New York Islanders: Johnny Boychuk, a true warrior, hangs up his skates

It is the sad end of the road for New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

In an announcement released earlier, it has been revealed by the New York Islanders that Johnny Boychuk’s career is officially over, although the blueliner hasn’t officially retired.

In other words, it is likely that the NHL veteran will instead sit on LTIR (Long-Term Injured Reserve) until his current contract, which carries a cap hit of $6 million, expires after the 2021-22 season.

It is a sad day for Boychuk and the New York Islanders with the 36-year-old having to make the difficult decision to call time on his career due to the horrific eye injury he suffered during the 2019-20 regular season against the Montreal Canadiens.

In the contest, which took place on Mar. 3, Boychuk was caught in the eye by the skate of Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen, a gruesome injury that looked as bad as it was and required an incredible 90 stitches.

Any cut to the eye can be a recipe for absolute disaster, let alone one to the eyelid, but Boychuk did prove just how much a warrior he is by returning to play three games during the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Islanders, averaging 10:56 of ATOI with a plus / minus rating of +1.

However, according to the Islanders, Boychuk underwent a plethora of different and extensive medical exams during the offseason and, as such, a decision was taken to stop playing.

That gut-wrenching decision is certainly understandable when you see this from Arthur Staple of The Athletic, who Tweeted that Boychuck revealed that he was diagnosed with optic nerve damage and some “other stuff,” calling the end of his career a “life choice.”

You don’t mess about with the human body and crucial tools like eyes and, with a family coupled with how physical a game hockey is, you have to applaud Boychuk for making the right decision, no matter how tough it was.

It was a truly terrifying injury that could have been a lot worse, and we certainly hope that Boychuk can now recover fully and lead a fulfilling life away from the rink.

Despite a sobering end to his career, Boychuk’s legacy remains intact and he will be remembered as a true warrior, one who left everything he had on the ice every single night.

Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche with the No. 61 overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Johnny Boychuk played in just four games for the Avs before being traded to the Boston Bruins on June. 24, 2008.

Boychuk’s career really took off with the B’s and the gritty defenseman flourished in Boston, playing in 317 career regular season games for the franchise while recording 75 points (19 G, 56 A).

Johnny Boychuk #55

Johnny Boychuk #55 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

He was a clutch performer in the postseason too, and played a key role in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, putting up nine points (3 G, 6 A) in 25 games.

Boychuk was then traded to the New York Islanders on Oct. 4, 2014, where he helped drag the franchise out of the mud and back into relevancy, leading the team to the postseason in four of his six seasons on Long Island.

In total, Boychuk skated in 725 regular season games with 206 career points (54 G, 152 A), while he also appeared in 104 career Stanley Cup Playoffs games, putting up 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points.

Affectionally referred to as “Johnny Rocket” because of his booming shot from the point, Boychuk was a fierce competitor who gave it everything he had while on the ice, leaving blood, sweat and tears out in the arena where he relished doing battle.

Playing as a hard-nosed game as you could have wished for, Boychuk was a real fans’ favorite and his bone-crushing hits were just as fun to watch as his absolute rocket of a shot.

He now retires a true warrior and, while the New York Islanders will get the cap relief they need to go out and re-sign RFA and superstar center Mathew Barzal, that will be small comfort tonight as they get used to life without Johnny Boychuk, who was a true juggernaut on the backend and a real under-appreciated talent in the National Hockey League.