A four-time Stanley Cup champion has hung up his skates. Chris Kunitz announced his retirement as a professional hockey player today after 15 seasons and will now be joining the Chicago Blackhawks organization as a player development adviser. Kunitz released this statement:
I feel very fortunate to have been a part of four amazing organizations over the last 15 years. First and foremost I’d like to sincerely thank the Anaheim Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Every one of these organizations was the ultimate example, not only to me, but to my children, on what true professionalism should be.
Kunitz, 39, played last season with the Blackhawks and registered ten points in 56 games. It was actually his fifth organization as he suited up twice for the Atlanta Thrashers in his early career as well. Mostly though, the veteran winger will be remembered for his time in Pittsburgh where he played a total of 695 games and won three Stanley Cups. Never the superstar, Kunitz instead played integral secondary roles wherever he went, adding some physicality and a relentless forecheck to some nice offensive skills. He recorded 619 points in his 1,022 regular season games including a career-high 35 goals and 68 points in 2013-14.
One of the most memorable moments of his career came in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, when Kunitz scored the winning goal in overtime to lift the Penguins past the Ottawa Senators. Game-winning goals were old hat at that point, having scored 45 in his career (he would end up with 49).
An undrafted forward out of Ferris State University, Kunitz was exactly the type of hockey player that every team in the league was after throughout his long career. Willing to do anything at either end of the rink while also fitting in anywhere from the first to fourth line. Kunitz was given a chance to play with some outstanding talents over the last decade and a half, but many have spoken highly of his contributions and chemistry. That chemistry—with Sidney Crosby in particular—is what led the Canadian Olympic team to choose Kunitz for their 2014 team. He would only score a single goal in the tournament but the Canadians would end up taking home gold.
Quite simply, Kunitz experienced more team success than almost anyone else in the modern NHL. Though he was rarely the face of those victories, he contributed all the same. It’s hard to imagine many players who wouldn’t trade their careers for his at this point.