(670 The Score) After 15 years of fighting through pain and putting hockey and the Blackhawks first, Brent Seabrook hoped to play through it one more time.
Seabrook took the ice last Saturday with the Blackhawks' taxi squad believing he could prepare himself for the remainder of the season. This time, he couldn't. His body wouldn't allow it. Seabrook couldn't push off his skates. The long seasons and battles that took a toll on his body had caught up to him.
Once more, Seabrook told Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry he would see how his broken-down body felt the next morning. They both realized what was coming. Seabrook's playing career had reached its breaking point. At the age of 35, he had undergone surgeries on both hips and a shoulder between December 2019 and February 2020. He's now dealing with arthritis and has no cartilage left in one hip.
Seabrook reached this point by putting off surgeries as long as he could to stay on the ice until he no longer could. On Friday morning, Seabrook officially announced his playing days are over and that he'll be retiring. It marked the end of a career that included a revival of a once-dormant Blackhawks organization and three championship banners being raised in Chicago.
"I wouldn't change anything for anything," Seabrook said. "I gave it all I had."
Seabrook made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2005, playing in a 5-3 loss to the Mighty Ducks. The Blackhawks went 26-43-13 that season, drew an average of just 13,318 fans at the United Center and didn't have their home games televised in Chicago. A 20-year-old from western Canada, Seabrook proved to be a driving force in Chicago's hockey revival.
Blackhawks president of hockey operations Stan Bowman was the team's director of hockey operations in 2003, when he recognized a player in Seabrook who not only had tremendous talent but also leadership qualities. Of all the interviews Bowman conducted prior to the draft that year, he said Seabrook's stood out. The Blackhawks then selected Seabrook at No. 14 overall.
Bowman continued to see those traits throughout Seabrook's career. He was a selfless teammate who would hold an outlet pass as long as he could if it meant setting up Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews with the best opportunity for a scoring chance -- even if the cost for Seabrook was taking a punishing hit.
"He always put the team ahead of himself," Bowman said.
"The ultimate competitor. That's what I think of with him."
Seabrook's name and success will always be synonymous fellow defenseman Duncan Keith as well as Kane and Toews. While Keith, Kane and Toews are locks to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the case for Seabrook is less likely.
But the Blackhawks never overlooked or underrated Seabrook's impact on their success, and being seen in the same light as superstar teammates was never important to him. Asked in early 2015 whether he cared about earning due credit, Seabrook replied, "I care about winning Stanley Cups." He then lifted it for the third time that summer.
“He wears it with pride,” teammate Andrew Shaw once said of Seabrook. “He’s one of those guys that’s been here from the start.
"He was here when they had 6,000 people in the crowd.”
The price Seabrook paid for his career is a heavy toll on his health. On a Friday late in December, he had been training for the season and felt pain-free. Later that weekend, Seabrook helped shovel off a mountain-side pond to play hockey with his kids. He woke up that Monday unable to walk.
There have been good days and bad days, and there will be more of both. Seabrook could require a hip replacement procedure later in life. But above all, he anticipates a quality of life beyond hockey.
Seabrook is leaving these upstart Blackhawks and the remainder of their season to spend time with his family in Canada. He hopes his body can hold up not for another playoff push but so he can go skiing with family and coach his children in hockey.
Seabrook put hockey and the Blackhawks before himself for 15 years until he couldn't anymore, and he departs taking pride in that.
"I got no regrets," Seabrook said. "I'm proud of the way I did things. Proud of my career."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.