Carolina Hurricanes’ Bryan Bickell takes a shift in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (Jim Mone/AP)
Bryan Bickell began his week by making his emotional return to the NHL, and he’ll end it by walking away for good.
The Carolina Hurricanes forward, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, announced on Saturday that he will retire at the end of the season.
“I’ve made the decision with my family that I’m going to call it quits, so it’s just these last two games,” Bickell told NHL.com.
Bickell’s final game in the NHL will come five months after he was sidelined with an unknown illness and later diagnosed with MS. He has been receiving monthly treatments for the disease, which can cause extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, vision problems and several other symptoms that pose obvious challenges to somebody competing in a professional sport.
“As the weeks go on in the month, it’s like running low on gas,” he said. “You just kind of fade off. Some symptoms (have) come, but when you get treatment you feel energized and full of life. Hopefully it will bring a spark (Saturday) and (Sunday).”
The Hurricanes have done their part make sure Bickell gets a proper send off.
Earlier on Saturday, every player on the Hurricanes surprised Bickell by joining him and his wife Amanda for an MS awareness walk outside PNC Arena.
[WATCH] @bbicks29 made plans to participate in this morning's #WalkMS, but he didn't expect his teammates to all show up. #BickellBrave pic.twitter.com/zy2emeM9nZ— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) April 8, 2017
They also named him the winner of the 2016-17 Steve Chiasson Award, Carolina’s version of the Masterton Trophy, which was not surprising but still a nice touch. And in their final two games — a home date against St. Louis on Saturday and a road game against Philadelphia on Sunday — the Hurricanes will wear No. 29 stickers on their helmets.
It’ll definitely be a little dusty in Raleigh Saturday night.
Despite the sad and unfortunate end to his career, Bickell will walk away with three Stanley Cups championships, countless memories and the opportunity to inspire millions.
And hopefully one more goal.