Hearing the doctors’ recommendation surely shocked the winger, who had planned to play for a few more years and wanted his name on the Stanley Cup.
He missed 109 games due to painful injuries over the past three seasons. Most agreed he was done with the Tampa Bay Lightning after this past season, his sixth as a Bolt. As it turns out, he might be done with hockey altogether.
The 34-year-old, former New York Ranger captain has recently been diagnosed with a degenerative back disease, specifically of a lumbar disc near the spine. Ryan Callahan has been placed on long-term injured reserve, the Lightning announced Thursday. As part of the diagnosis, general manager Julien BriseBois told reporters, Callahan has been recommended to end his NHL career.
He doesn’t need surgery and will continue physical therapy, but he doesn’t expect to return to the ice.
He’ll need to deal with the condition for the rest of his life. Callahan said, he mostly feels fine doing normal things.
Playing hockey probably created the condition, especially with Callahan’s aggressive style of play. He threw his body around.
Tampa Bay’s GM Julien BriseBois said in an interview that Callahan had gone to see a back specialist following a difficult season for the New York native that saw him miss and even leave games due to his condition. He said the ultimate recommendation was that Callahan “no longer play professional hockey.”
“He’s such a proud competitor, such a fierce competitor. I know he was planning to not only play out this contract but sign another contract after that.”
In an exclusive interview. Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns spoke with Callahan about the injury and retirement.
Has your back been bothering you for a while or is this something that’s popped up since the season ended?
Callahan: “I kind of knew. I’ve been dealing with some back issues for a couple years now, this year being the worst that it’s ever been, obviously missing some games with it, leaving some games with it. I’ve kind of been battling it all year. Didn’t know to what extent and after the season I went and saw a couple specialists and after talking to them, it wasn’t easy to hear what they thought was going on and most likely won’t be able to play. It was definitely tough to hear that.”
Is this career ending or is this something you can take a year or two off and come back from?
Callahan: “I don’t think a year off or two years off is going to help it to be honest with you. From what the doctors have said and the way I feel, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to come back.”
How long have you back been hindering your ability to play?
Callahan: “It’s been a couple years in the making, and I think this year it just got to a point where it was almost unbearable at times. We tried a couple different things during the year to help it, and it helped it a little bit to where I could get into the game and play. But even throughout the year, it was always in the back of my head every game I played that this thing could go on me and spasm on me and flare up and I could be out, which happened to me in a couple of games. And then there are some games I didn’t play because of it. It ended up being a day-to-day thing to be honest with you. It depended on how I woke up in the morning and how I felt. I’m sure talking to the doctors too they agreed the contact and the physical game, the banging, the unpredictable movements of hockey aren’t conducive for it. It’s tough. It definitely is.”
Read the full interview here.
Callahan was acquired in a trade with the Rangers in 2014 and went on IR in December with recurring back seizures and has played 70 gamers or more, only twice since then. He skated in only 18 games in the 2016-17 season after having multiple hip surgeries. The year prior he missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an emergency appendectomy.
Despite his lack of durability, Callahan was an alternate captain and on-ice leader. His best season was his first in 2014-15 where he scored 24 goals and earned a career-high 54 points in winning the Eastern Conference Championship, He spent nearly seven seasons with the Rangers eclipsing the 20 goal mark three times earning two all-star appearances. He also sKated for Team USA in 2010 and 2014, winning Silver in Vancouver.
“Cally” has appeared in 757 NHL games. he has recorded 186 career goals and 386 points.
The Tampa Bay Times tells us, “Callahan plans on remaining in Tampa with his family at least for the next year. He’s not sure what will happen after that but would like to be involved in the organization in some form.”
Callahan was a huge fan favorite in Tampa, probably because of his skate or die mentality. He was great in the room and without the injuries, he was great on the ice. His community work and his foundation are admirable..
It is sad that an injury ends the career of a player of Callahan’s ilk. All athletes want to go out their way. Unfortunately, Callahan’s ability to do that has been taken away
So long Cally. You will be missed..
All photographs courtesy of Christine Gunn,