It sounds like the end of a long a storied career has finally arrived.
For weeks, and perhaps even months, now we have been hearing about the possibility that veteran National Hockey League forward Brian Gionta was seriously weighing the possibility of hanging up his skates and retiring from the NHL and now it sounds like it's about to be made official. Gionta has been spending the last several weeks around the Buffalo Sabres organization and there has been a great deal of talk regarding the possibility of him taking on a role in player development and it sounds like that may also be on the verge of being made official.
Now we do not know anything for certain just quite yet but there are two new reports that certainly point to this being the case. First Sabres beat writer Joe Yerdon broke the news that the Buffalo Sabres would be holding a press conference with Gionta at some point during the day on Monday. Although the press conference could in theory be anything it seems highly likely given the recent rumors that Sabres will be announcing both Gionta's retirement from professional play as well as his new position with the ranks of the Sabres organization.
John Wawrow of the Associated Press is reporting that the last thing he heard on the Gionta front is that Gionta was working on a "quasi-part time role" as he weighed the option of possible retirement. That being said though Wawrow admitted that based on the fact that there is now a press conference that it seems like Gionta may be about to embark on a more formal role with the Sabres organization and that would also seemingly signal his retirement.
Update: It now seems all but official, Mike Catalana of 13 WHAM sports is now reporting that his sources have informed him that this press conference is indeed designed to announce the retirement of Gionta as a professional NHL player. Catalana also seemingly confirmed the rumors that a new off ice role will be announced at the press conference tomorrow.
If this is indeed the end for Gionta I do not believe that he will have many regrets regarding the excellent career he has in the National Hockey League, a career by all accounts that defied all the expectations that were set before him. Gionta was by no means an elite prospect and in fact he was only selected in the 3rd round (82nd overall) of the 1998 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils but in spite of that he went on to have an extraordinary career, especially for a 3rd round pick. Gionta would spend the first 7 years of his NHL career as a mmeber of those aforementioned Devils and that is where he had arguably the greatest season of his professional career scoring 48 goals and 41 assists for a total of 89 points in just 82 gfames during the 2005 - 2006 NHL regular season.
In spite of his success in New Jersey however you could argue that Gionta's rise to stardom truly came when he joined the Montreal Canadiens organization, an organization with one of the largest and most rabid fan bases in all of North american pro sports. In his second season with the Canadiens Gionta became only the second American born player to wear the "C" as the Canadiens captain a role that he would also adopt years later when he became a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization.
Gionta's career will end with 1026 games playeed, 291 goals scored, 04 assists and 595 career points. He never managed to win a championship at that obviously is the goal of every player in the NHL, but I don't think Gionta should have any regrets given just how much he accomplished in his career.