In his final home game with the Carolina Hurricanes, fans in Raleigh gave Bryan Bickell a standing ovation during the third period of Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
Bickell, who was diagnosed in November with Multiple Sclerosis, has announced he will retire at the end of this season. The Hurricanes finish their schedule off Sunday in Philadelphia.
He took to the ice to salute the crowd, his teammates and opponents as they stopped to salute him in a very touching moment.
Afterward, he explained the decision to retire.
“The biggest thing is my health, and I don’t want to take risks,” said Bickell, per the Raleigh News and Observer. “It’s tough to leave, but I’m excited about life after hockey, and I want to be healthy. To watch my kids grow will be important.”
That wasn’t the only emotional moment across the league Saturday.
Craig Cunningham was honored with a ceremonial puck drop prior to the Coyotes’ game against the Minnesota Wild.
Cunningham had part of his left leg amputated in order to prevent infection after a medical emergency just before the start of an AHL game in November. Despite that, Cunningham has since returned to the ice.
Cunningham smiled widely as he shook hands with players from both teams before leaving the ice. But his biggest smile of the day might have come earlier, when — while wearing a special prosthetic for skates — he skated around the Gila Arena ice and even did a little stickhandling with a puck along the way.
Tonight also marked the final NHL game for Panthers forward Shawn Thornton, who is retiring.
His teammates payed a special tribute to him after a 3-0 win over Buffalo.
From the Miami Herald:
Thornton’s teammates waited for him at the mouth of their tunnel, their sticks held high as he skated onto the ice one last time — this time as the first star honoree.
“I wasn’t sure if they were making fun of me or being sincere,” Thornton joked afterward.
“The way these guys have treated me the last couple days, I can’t say enough, can’t thank them enough. You try and be a good teammate; you try and, you know, do what you can. Obviously they definitely appreciated it, so thank you to them.”