Pen hasn’t yet been put to paper and Tom Brady isn’t officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but we could be minutes, hours or days away from one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history suiting up for just the second team in his illustrious career and closing out his surefire Hall of Fame career with a team other than that with which he became an icon.
To be sure, Brady the 'Buc' is going to take time for football fans to get used to, especially in New England, but the idea of a player who became a legend with one franchise leaving ahead of his final season(s) isn’t entirely foreign to hockey fans. In fact, there are a number of legitimate NHL Hall of Famers who made indelible marks on one franchise before bolting just before their time on-ice was through.
Who are the most prominent examples? Here are 10 Hall of Fame NHLers who closed out their careers wearing an unfamiliar uniform:
Martin Brodeur, St. Louis Blues – 2014-15
Brodeur’s brief stint in St. Louis is quite possibly the closest NHL comparable to Brady’s departure from New England.
Brady established himself as a franchise legend by guiding the Patriots to multiple titles, and he did so while playing one of the most important – if not the most important – position on the field. Like quarterbacking, goaltending is a specialized role, and as that franchise netminder, Brodeur did his part in helping the Devils three Stanley Cups. It was impossible to picture him ever pulling on another jersey. However, New Jersey decided to move on and Brodeur still had a desire to strap on the pads. And when St. Louis came calling, he put pen to paper and so began one of the oddest end-of-career stays in recent memory and perhaps NHL history.
Martin St-Louis, New York Rangers
The relationship between St-Louis and then-Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was fractured over the latter’s role as GM of the Canadian Olympic squad. Leaving St-Louis off the initial squad – he was eventually named an injury replacement – sparked a trade request and resulted in the eventual pre-deadline deal that sent the longtime Lightning winger, and then captain, to the Rangers. And while it might feel as though St-Louis spent significant time in New York due to a couple deep playoff runs, he actually only skated in one full campaign and 93 total regular season contests as a Blueshirt. Ultimately, it was a blip on the radar.
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings
It’s still hard to believe the Senators allowed this to happen, no matter what the reason. It’s not as though Alfredsson was asking for the world. When it came down to it, he inked a one-year, $5.5-million deal with Detroit. And Alfredsson wasn’t washed up, either. He’d had a tough year the season prior, posting 10 goals and 26 points during the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign, but he went out and scored 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games with the Red Wings. After nearly 1,200 games with the Senators, which isn’t including another 121 playoff games with the organization, he finished his career in Red Wings red and white.
Mike Modano, Detroit Red Wings
Another one-season wonder with the Red Wings – and not the last one on this list. At the time he signed in Detroit, Modano was contemplating hanging up his skates. He had just finished up his 20th season in the Stars organization and had already cemented himself as the best player in franchise history, won a Stanley Cup and earned a first-team all-star nod. His resume was fairly full. But the chance to play out the last campaign of his career with his hometown team was too tough to pass up. Unfortunately, that last season in Detroit was something of a disaster for Modano. He played only 30 games, scored just four goals and 11 points and missed the majority of the season with a wrist injury.
Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks
After becoming a free agent, Sundin seemingly had two options: retire or give it one last go and chase the Stanley Cup. And while he contemplated the latter and sat out the first half of the campaign, he ultimately decided that there was a fit for him with the Canucks. Sundin was awfully productive given his half-season layoff, too, notching nine goals and 28 points in 41 games in Vancouver. The post-season run concluded in much the same way most had throughout his near 1,000-game tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, though: without hardware. After sweeping the Blues in the opening round, the Canucks were ousted from the second round in six games by the rival Chicago Blackhawks and Sundin called it a career.
Brian Leetch, Boston Bruins
Technically, Leetch suited up for two clubs before his career was through, but the stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs was so short that it’s easily overlooked. The real oddity is that after that post-deadline stay in Toronto, Leetch inked a one-year pact after the lockout year and played one final campaign with the Bruins. In his 1,200-plus game career that spanned 18 seasons, it was the only full campaign that the two-time Norris Trophy winner played for any team other than the New York Rangers.
Ray Bourque, Colorado Avalanche
Arguably the most famous example of a player who spent his entire career with one franchise heading to another. In Bourque’s case, though, the Boston Bruins were on board with sending him elsewhere. They made a point of shipping him to a contender and giving him the opportunity to hoist a Stanley Cup before he hung up his skates. And while that didn’t happen during his post-deadline stint in Colorado – the Avalanche were bounced in the Western Conference final – Bourque and Co. went all the way in 2000-01. He hoisted the hardware and skated into the sunset following one of the most iconic Cup celebrations in NHL history.
Borje Salming, Detroit Red Wings
Let’s combine two into one because…
Bernie Federko, Detroit Red Wings
…during the 1989-90 Red Wings brought aboard two franchise icons whose best days were behind them in an attempt to get Detroit over the hump in the post-season. In each of the past three seasons, the Red Wings had made it to the dance and had twice come oh-so-close to a Stanley Cup final berth. But bringing in two aging all-stars did little to help the Red Wings’ cause. In fact, the entire plan backfired. While Salming and Federko were hardly to blame for Detroit’s struggles, the Red Wings finished five points out of a playoff spot. Neither played another campaign in the NHL.
Bobby Orr, Chicago Black Hawks
We’ll start with one Boston sports icon, Brady, and end with another, Orr. However, despite the fact Orr revolutionized the position and is considered among the greatest players of all time, his time with the Black Hawks was an unmitigated disaster. By the 1976-77 season, his body was betraying him and his knees could no longer handle the rigours of an NHL season. He had played only 10 games the season prior to inking in Chicago and skated in only 26 games with the Black Hawks across a three-year stay – sitting out one season entirely – before hanging up his skates. The Hall of Fame waived the waiting period and Orr was enshrined in 1979.
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