For many, defenseman Lee Sweatt’s retirement is little more than the death of a few hundred sweat-related puns. It’s hard not to feel bad for the defenseman whose career shattered with the foot he used to block shots last season, though.
Jason Botchford’s hopeful late-July piece about Sweatt’s strange 2010-11 season now seems like a sad epitaph for Sweatt’s career. Some injuries opened the door for Sweatt to earn a bit of playing time with the Vancouver Canucks and he cashed in quickly, scoring a game-winning goal in his first-ever NHL game against the Nashville Predators on January 26. The goal was so unlikely that his teammates chanted “Rudy!” when he entered the locker room.
Everything started so well, but the ride wouldn’t last long. Right after scoring that goal, Sweatt blocked a howling shot by Predators defenseman Shea Weber.
“On my very next shift, Shea Weber took a slap shot and I blocked it with my foot. I finished the game but I could barely walk,” Sweatt said.
“Everyone knows he has basically the hardest shot in the league. What are the chances?”
The X-rays showed severe bruising hours later, but no break. It’s possible the foot was too swollen to detect a fracture. Sweatt rested his injured [foot] during the all-star break and was well enough to play two more games before the Canucks were set to send him down to the AHL.
But the morning before he was to be on a plane headed for Manitoba, he blocked another shot in practice with the Canucks and the foot was shattered. So was his season.
And now it’s clear that those two blocked shots probably claimed his career. Sweatt’s agents Norton Sports announced his retirement, which comes despite signing a two-year, two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.
Maybe scoring one goal and one assist for two points in three career games constitutes overachieving for a player of Sweatt’s low profile, but it’s still sad that it all ended so quickly. Then again, his story reveals the dangers of blocking shots and how a little luck can make and break a non-star’s career.