When he officially retired one week ago, it had been 751 days since Joel Ward’s last NHL game.
Which puts Ward in that rare category of former athletes, who just kind of… forgot to self-announce their end.
“I was just so busy focusing on my little guy here,” Ward said via FaceTime. “That, I kind of got sidetracked.”
Ward was referring to his 1-year old son Robinson, who was one of the several key elements that helped with the mental conclusion of his hockey career.
“If I ran into you, I’d pretty much tell you I was done,” Ward said. “But for a lot people that didn’t know, they were still up in the air. It was good for me Monday to tell my story, and put it to rest.”
Ward penned one beauty of a goodbye note in The Players’ Tribune to make it official.
He shared memorable pieces of an uphill hockey journey, including the passing of his father, the dedication of his mother and the storybook path of playing 726 NHL games, despite never even being drafted.
“What a ride it was for me,” Ward reminisced. “Back then, If I could play just one game that would be great.”
Ward’s first NHL game came with the Minnesota Wild, but he was more prominently known for his time with the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. However, it’s no coincidence he has made San Jose his permanent home.
“We have a lot of roots here, my little guy was born here,” Ward said. “Right at El Camino hospital up the street. A lot kind of hit home and seemed like a good fit at the time. We’ve made the transition of sticking out here.”
Now that the Ward family is settled, Joel has his eventual sights on a hockey coaching career.
“I don’t really have anything set in stone,” Ward explained. “It’s just something I’d kind of like to pursue.”
[RELATED: Newly-retired Ward hopes to return to Sharks as a coach]
After 11 NHL seasons, Ward has a resume of experience that should go over well in a dressing room.
“I’ve been in bottom end of the lineups to playing a couple times on the top end,” Ward said. "Just feeling like I could relate to a lot of guys.
“It would be insane for me not to share.”