Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw isn’t sure about his career concussion total. But he knows it was “a lot.” And this year, for the first time in his life, Shaw listened to the doctors telling him he couldn’t risk increasing it.
Shaw, 29, officially announced his retirement Monday.
“Going through [the recovery process] over and over again, like I have the past few years, just doesn’t seem like a good quality of life,” Shaw said. “The doctors didn’t think I should keep putting myself through that.”
Shaw finishes his career with two Stanley Cup rings from 2013 and 2015. He had 247 points in 544 regular-season games for the Hawks and Canadiens, plus 35 more in 72 postseason games.
But Shaw’s playing career always will be defined more by his scrappy playing style and goofy personality than by his solid yet unremarkable production. Those traits earned him the nickname “Mutt” around Chicago, a city he loves just as much as it loves him.
“I thank everyone who took a 20-year-old mutt and gave him a home,” he said. “I’m going to miss the blue-collar mentality this city has.”
Former coach Joel Quenneville, a unique man himself, embraced Shaw’s own uniqueness and gave him a large role during the later years of the Hawks’ championship era.
The move paid dividends, allowing Shaw’s resilience and optimism to become signature aspects of the team’s approach.
“His energy and his excitement and his personality were fun to be around,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “It was the perfect marriage when he got to our team. . . . We had some different players here, maybe on the more serious side, and he lightened things up.”
“There wasn’t a game that went by where I felt 100% because the game before I took some blows or threw some blows,” Shaw added. “But just to battle through it rubbed off on some people. I’d like to think it helped us win Cups.”
Those Cups won’t be his favorite memories from his career, though. That honor is reserved for one of the most simple pleasures: “Sitting in the room with the guys.”
“The brotherhood and how we razz each other every day — me being one of the ones razzing most people — I’m going to miss that,” he said.
Shaw’s 2019 return to Chicago, coming off a career-high 47-point season in Montreal, could have led to another lengthy, memorable stint with the Hawks. He scored in the first period of the 2019-20 home opener against the Sharks and had the crowd “buzzing,” as Alex DeBrincat remembered Monday.
But his head ultimately couldn’t endure the beating. Shaw suffered a concussion Nov. 30 of last season, just 26 games in, and the grueling recovery process ended his season.
He returned for training camp this January in high spirits but lasted only 14 games before suffering another concussion Feb. 9, when an unwieldy elbow from Stars defenseman Joel Hanley caught him up high.
Shaw worked during recent offseasons on techniques to better protect his head but realized that following his natural instincts on the ice would continue to put him in “vulnerable situations.”
True to himself from his first day in the NHL to his last, that meant this had to be the end.
Hawks team physician Michael Terry said in a statement Monday that the Hawks “advised him to discontinue his career” and are “very supportive of his decision to prioritize his long-term health.”
Fortunately, the recovery from this season’s concussion hasn’t been as long and demoralizing as last season’s. Shaw said he’s mentally “in a good place” now, although there are still some “minor things” to work through.
He’s hoping to spend more time with his wife and two young children and help his dad build a new house — “That’ll be fun; it’ll keep me busy for now,” he said — before eventually looking for employment in the off-ice hockey world. His contract will remain on long-term injured reserve until it expires in July 2022.
“It’s not a goodbye,” he said. “I’m going to be around. You’re going to see this awesome face. You’re going to hear this awesome voice a lot more.”
NOTES: Hawks forward Ryan Carpenter was put in the concussion protocol Monday after a high hit by Predators defenseman Erik Gudbranson on Friday. Coach Jeremy Colliton said Carpenter is “likely to miss some time.”
† Defenseman Calvin de Haan still isn’t practicing because of his hip injury. Colliton said he’s “not likely to play in the near future.’’