Well, it’s official. Ales Hemsky has retired from hockey. I don’t know about you but I was surprised to read he was only 36. He hasn’t played in 2 years and has been dealing with concussions and hip injuries. He strikes me as the type of guy that will probably have post hockey injuries affect him for a very long time. He gave it everything out there. He usually didn’t have much support.
Hemsky was my favourite Oiler for a very long time. I wear his Jersey when I go to games or watch important Oiler games (you know, the ones in October and November).
We all love him for this:
I watch this video on rainy days sometimes. I consider it one of my favourite all time Oiler memories and that is something considering the Oil have as good a hockey history as anyone.
Hemsky was a 13th overall pick that went on to be a very good NHL player. To me he’ll always be a ‘what if’ type story.
What if he hadn’t been drafted by the Oil?
What if the Oil had given him a supporting cast and weren’t absolutely awful?
What is he wasn’t so hard nosed and tough?
What if the injuries didn’t pile up?
It’s that third one that might raise a few eyebrows. Did I call him tough? I did. Hemsky was always in the dirty areas and never afraid to put his body on the line. He played injured constantly. He played through pain. He was a playmaker who took the hit. He was the equivalent of a young Steve Rogers getting punched and then getting back up and saying ‘I could do this all day’.
A lot of fans labelled him as soft and a ‘perimeter player’. This is a term, at the time, that also seemed to be given to people that could stick handle well and were not born in Saskatchewan. It was frustrating growing up hearing the garbage spewed about him because it wasn’t true. But, if your name sounds like ‘Alice’, Don Cherry’s ‘good old boys’ is spewed to you every Saturday night and you’re from a nation of mullets and Skoda cars. Well, you’re gonna be called soft irregardless of what you do. I think the hockey world has come a long way and a player like Hemsky would have different labels today.
I remember, when the Czechs were good, that Jagr wanted Hemsky on the national team on his line. That is how revered Ales was back home. The Pardubice Prince they’d call him. I know many forgot about him or thought he was already retired. It is now official. Thank you for everything Ales. To me, you were the very definition of warrior in your Oiler career. I was happy to see that, in your retirement, that you were put on the 3rd line of the all Oiler team with Connor and Drai. You finally got some real linemates!
Here are some highlights (note where he is for almost every goal and pass... perimeter player my ass!).