Tommy Wingels called it a career Thursday, as the former Sharks forward announced his retirement from hockey after 10 professional seasons.
Wingels played 337 of his 448 NHL games for San Jose, and the Evanston, Ill. native spent the last two seasons playing for Genève-Servette HC in Switzerland. The 32-year-old said in a statement that he is "now ready and eager to return to my hometown to start a new chapter in my life."
Congrats on all your accomplishments and a great career! 👏 https://t.co/CGkct4V24Y— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) June 11, 2020
Only two other Sharks' sixth-round picks (Ryane Clowe and Alex Korolyuk) have scored more goals for San Jose than Wingels' 51, and only Clowe played more games. But Wingels should be remembered more for what he did off the ice during his career.
Wingels has served on the advisory board of the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to ensuring sports create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ athletes, since its inception in 2012. The organization was founded in memory of Brendan Burke, the student-manager of Miami University's hockey team when Wingels played there. Burke, the son of hard-nosed former NHL general manager Brian Burke, died in a February 2010 car accident fewer than three months after he came out as gay to Wingels and his teammates.
“We’re trying to eliminate the casual homophobia in the game and in the locker room," Wingels told David Pollak and Mark Emmons, then with Bay Area News Group, in 2012. " … It’s not just hockey we’re talking about. It’s sports in general. We want people to be judged on their talent. Nothing else should really matter.”
The You Can Play Project has partnered with the NHL and the NHL Players Association since 2013. Wingels was the Sharks' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2012 and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2013 for his involvement with the You Can Play Project.
The Sharks initially drafted Wingels in the sixth round (No. 177 overall), and he made his NHL debut just shy of two years later. Wingels became a regular in the Sharks' lineup during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and he scored at least 15 goals in back-to-back seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. He scored just nine during an injury-shortened 2015-16 campaign, but Wingels played in all but two of San Jose's 24 playoff games as the Sharks made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Wingels' average ice time with San Jose the following season (10:03) was his lowest since becoming an NHL regular, and the Sharks traded him to the Ottawa Senators in 2017. He didn't return to the Senators after becoming a free-agent, signing a one-year deal with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks traded him to the Boston Bruins ahead of the 2018 trade deadline, and Wingels played 22 regular-season and playoff games for the Bruins before spending the last two seasons in Switzerland.