Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams announced his retirement on Thursday, capping a 19-season career best known for his playoff heroics in winning three Stanley Cups.
"Since I first broke into the league a day after my 19th birthday back in 2000, this game has brought me so much that I will never be able to repay it," Williams said in a statement. "The countless experiences, relationships, lessons and hardships will remain with me forever as I move on to the next stage of my life. I've never once taken for granted the privilege it is to be able to play a game for a living, and that is probably why I was able to play it professionally for as long as I have."
Williams, 39, appeared in 20 games with the Hurricanes last season after rejoining the team as a free agent in January. He had one goal in seven postseason games. The winger recorded 797 points, including 320 goals, in 1,264 career NHL regular-season games.
As a playoff performer, Williams earned the nickname "Mr. Game 7" for recording seven goals and eight assists in nine career Game 7s. His 15 points in Game 7s are the most by any player in NHL history, and his teams went 8-1 in those contests.
Williams is one of nine players in NHL history to score 100 goals and win the Stanley Cup with two different franchises. He was selected 28th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, before being traded in 2004 to the Carolina Hurricanes for the first of two stints with the team. He was a key member on their 2006 Stanley Cup championship team.
In 2009, Carolina traded Williams to the Los Angeles Kings, where he would play seven years and win two more Stanley Cups -- earning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014 as playoff MVP. Williams spent two years with the Washington Capitals and then spent the last three seasons with the Hurricanes.
Williams thanked former Carolina owner Peter Karmanos and GM Ron Francis for "agreeing to bring me back to the place I now call home and finish my career for the Hurricanes," and current Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon and coach Rod Brind'Amour for "their leadership and trust in me as a player to bring me back this past year for one last run."
The veteran forward helped create one of the popular traditions in Hurricanes franchise history: The "Storm Surge" celebrations, in which the players did everything from human bowling to "duck, duck, goose" on the ice after victories to celebrate with fans. But after two decades of NHL action, it was time to hang up the skates.
"My family has sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am, so I want to thank my mom and dad for being there for me every step of the way. My sister, Nikki, for being my biggest fan since day one. My wife, Kelly, and my kids, Jaxon and Jade, for embracing this journey with me. Life is so much better when you have people you love to share it with," he said. "Thank you everyone as I retire from pro hockey."