Longtime NHL forward Joel Ward retires after 11 seasons

Longtime NHL forward Joel Ward announced his retirement on Monday.

Ward, 39, last played in the NHL in 2018 for the San Jose Sharks. He went to training camp with Montreal in 2018-19 but was unable to get another shot and decided officially to end his career in an announcement on the Players' Tribune.

Ward said he considers himself lucky to have played 726 career games after going undrafted and now wants to focus on being a dad to his 1-year-old son, Robinson.

Ward started his career with Minnesota in the 2006-07 season and also played for the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and Sharks in his 11-year career.

He scored 133 goals and had 171 assists in the regular season. He had some of his best moments on the biggest stage of the playoffs.

He had seven goals and six assists in 12 games in the 2011 postseason for the Predators, scored a Game 7 overtime goal for Washington at Boston in the first round in 2012, and had seven goals and six assists in the 2016 postseason, when he helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Pittsburgh. Ward finished with 22 goals and 30 assists in 83 playoff games.

Ward's Game 7 overtime goal for Washington at Boston in 2012 was a career highlight but one that was marred by racist messages that flooded social media. Eight years later, Ward was frustrated by another online incident involving a fellow black NHL player, as New York Rangers prospect K'Andre Miller had a chat with fans hijacked by racial slurs.

"It's definitely disheartening. It's sickening to hear some of these cases. All we want to do is to play. Sometimes when you're in a locker room, it can feel a little lonely at times, because it's hard to relate in certain situations. Coaches or teammates [that] call you a certain name because of the color of your skin is definitely hurting," Ward said on a conference call Monday.

"It's tough to share. It's tough to talk to [people]. You don't know who to really trust. A lot of people are looking at you in all sorts of ways."

He's been a proponent for the "Hockey Is for Everyone" movement during his career.

"It's huge for me. It's representation. Growing up in Toronto, there wasn't too many blacks playing in the NHL to look up to. It's just a game for everybody. I picked up a stick and fell in love with it. Why can't the next kid? For guys like myself and other players, it's important to show kids from other minorities and people of color that hockey is for everybody," said Ward, whose parents are from Barbados.

Ward said that in retirement, he hopes to work with the NHL in combating racism in hockey.

"Especially after seeing a lot of these instances come up with racism in hockey lately, it's been very disappointing. I guess you can say it's been a switch on for me to try to help others, but also to try and help the league to combat this a little bit better," he said. His message for minority players: "Be proud of who you are."

ESPN's Greg Wyshynski and The Associated Press contributed to this report.