In an interview with the Alaska Dispatch News, veteran NHL forward Scott Gomez revealed that he is retiring from professional hockey after 16 NHL seasons. He is one of those players whose legacy is going to be very different depending on whom you talk to, but there’s no question that he was one of the more unique players to enter the league and excel for a good portion of his career.
He isn’t going to be a Hall of Famer or anything, but Gomez had a career worth remembering. The Anchorage, Alaska native was a trailblazer in some ways. The son of a Mexican-American father and Colombian mother, he was the NHL’s first player of Hispanic descent. He also was the first player from the state of Alaska to truly make it in the league and has since paved the way for others to follow his path.
Only 13 players from Alaska have made it to the NHL according to hockey-reference.com, but before Gomez, the number was zero. He is a revered figure in his home state, where he continues to live and give back.
Through the Scotty Gomez Foundation, Gomez has been able to provide opportunities for Alaskan kids to play the game. The foundation even helped save the Alaskan girls’ high school hockey league that was on the verge of shutting down after its funding got cut.
“You have an obligation, a responsibility to your state,” Gomez told the Dispatch News. “The goal, the day I left here, was I always wanted to make Alaska proud. That’s my state. That’s my people.”
It’s safe to say he has accomplished at least that much.
As a player, it may be forgotten some now, but Gomez was a tremendous talent. He played in 1,079 games and put up 756 points. For a period of time, he was one of the NHL’s better set-up men. In fact, 76 percent of his career points are assists.
Gomez was a first-round selection by the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Within a year, he was on the big club and burst onto the scene with 70 points as a rookie. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy and appeared in the NHL All-Star Game that year. He also helped the Devils to the Stanley Cup that season with 10 points during the championship run.
Gomez was part of another Devils Cup team in 2003, led the league in assists in 2003-04 and collected 450 points over his first seven years in the NHL in New Jersey. He parlayed that into a massive seven-year, $51.5 million contract as a free agent, signing with the rival New York Rangers.
He had two good years in New York, touching 70 points his first season and 58 the next. Then he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in a deal that will live in infamy in Quebec. The Rangers acquired future captain Ryan McDonagh in that deal, while the Habs got essentially one good season out of Gomez.
That’s where things somewhat unraveled for the player. His point totals dipped, injury and ineffectiveness took over and suddenly that big contract became a big burden. After the 2012-13 lockout, Montreal used a compliance buyout on the remaining two seasons of Gomez’s contract. From there, he became a hockey nomad of sorts.
After the buyout, Gomez signed with the San Jose Sharks where he spent the entirety of the lockout-shortened season. Next it was off to the Florida Panthers where he ended up a healthy scratch most nights. He found his way back to New Jersey and had a somewhat resurgent season with 34 points in 58 games.
He started last season with the injury-ravaged St. Louis Blues, but was let go after they got healthy again. Gomez then spent time with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears and performed well. That earned him a contract late in the season with the Ottawa Senators, where he would play the last 13 games of his NHL career.
The latter half of his career is the one that sticks out because of that massive free agent deal that ultimately did not work out and it’s also fresh in our minds. The totality of his career shows a player that did a lot of good, too, though.
Among his other accomplishments, Gomez was part of the 2006 U.S. Olympic team. Additionally, when the NHL was locked out in 2004-05 and most NHLers were going overseas for better competition and a pro paycheck, Gomez jumped at the chance to play in his home state. He played the entire season with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, led the league in scoring with 86 points and was named the ECHL MVP. He followed that season up with the best year of his NHL career – a 33-goal, 84-point campaign with the Devils.
Gomez leaves the game after an imperfect and sometimes complicated career. That can be said about a lot of players, but with two Stanley Cups and earning enough to put himself in a position to give back to the community that raised him, it should also be viewed a great success in many ways.
Source: CBS Sports / Scott Gomez, two-time Stanley Cup winner with Devils, retires at 36