Avs forward Konowalchuk retires after heart tests

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Konowalchuk
retired Friday after tests showed he has a disease that can lead to
irregular heart rhythms.

"After a complete evaluation from a number of different
physicians and experts associated with this condition, we decided
that this was the best and only alternative for me," Konowalchuk
said in a written statement.

"As much as I'll miss the game of hockey and all that it's
provided for my family and I, my health was the number one

The team said the 33-year-old Konowalchuk has Long QT Syndrome,
a genetic disease involving electrical conduction that can lead to
irregular heart rhythms.

Team captain Joe Sakic said Konowalchuk's retirement was hard to
believe after the work he invested in getting ready for the season.

"On the other hand, it's better to find it now. Safety comes
first and your family comes first and it is a decision we support
and respect," he said.

Sakic said many of Konowalchuk's teammates knew he was
undergoing tests but did not expect such a drastic outcome.

"We had seen him work out and work hard," winger Ian Laperriere said. "We were holding out hope he would play."

Laperriere said Konowalchuk would be missed. "He was good to
the team on and off the ice," he said.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles said teammates understood
Konowalchuk's move.

"I don't think anybody disagrees with his decision," he said.
"He has to think about himself and the well-being of his family.
We want him to live a long and healthy life."

Konowalchuk had 171 goals and 225 assists in 790 games over 13
seasons. He had 52 playoff appearances, with nine goals and 12
assists. He was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1991 and
acquired by the Avalanche in 2003.

The Avalanche also said forward Brad May would be out four to six months after reconstructive shoulder surgery Thursday. May was injured in a preseason game Monday.

"It was a freakish injury," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He
brought us grit and toughness and now someone else is going to have
to step up and provide it."