‘Canes captain Williams to ‘step away from the game’


PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – JANUARY 03: Justin Williams #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on January 03, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Justin Williams, who helped the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup and captained the team last year, announced Monday he’s stepping away from the National Hockey League, according to a news release from the team.

The 37-year-old has 786 points in 1,244 career games. He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion — once with Carolina and twice in Los Angeles.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” said Williams. “For as long as I can remember, my whole off-season until this point has been hockey and doing what was necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game.

“It’s important to me that the focus of attention is on the current, very talented group the Carolina Hurricanes have assembled, as they prepare to build on the momentum and growth we established last season.”

Williams began his NHL career in Philadelphia in 2000. He was traded to the Hurricanes in 2004. Among his highlights in Raleigh is an empty-net goal in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

The veteran winger went on to earn the moniker “Mr. Game 7” thanks to his postseason heroics that helped the Kings win two titles in his tenure in Los Angeles, which began when he was traded in March 2009. He earned the Conn Smythe in 2014 for being deemed the most valuable player in Los Angeles’ championship win.

Williams went on to sign with the Washington Capitals for two years before returning to Raleigh as a free agent in 2017.

“We appreciate Justin’s honesty and openness throughout this process, and respect his decision,” said Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell. “He’s been an important part of our team, but we did prepare our roster with the understanding that he might step away. We are confident in the group we’ve assembled.”

Under Williams’ leadership, Carolina made its first playoff appearance in a decade last season and made it to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Hurricanes begin the preseason Sept. 17 in Tampa Bay. They’ll host Montreal Oct. 3 in their first regular-season action.

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