It was inevitable.
Patrick Sharp's NHL career was likely coming to a close at the end of the season and nobody wanted to admit it, especially not himself.
But when No. 10 hit the ice for pregame warmups in the final home game sporting an "A" on his red sweater like old times, it was evident.
And when the United Center video board showed his entrance out of the tunnel and stayed panned on him as he skated a few laps before the starters were introduced, which, oh by the way, he was a part of and announced last, it became even more apparent.
Then came the third period.
During the final TV timeout of the game, a video montage titled "Thank You Sharpy" aired before Sharp acknowledged a sold-out crowd of 22,218 — the largest of the season — and teared up while doing so.
After the final buzzer, Sharp's teammates forced him to skate to center ice by himself, where he saluted the fans one final time, shook the hands of a few St. Louis Blues players, Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff and skated a victory lap.
It was the perfect way to go out.
"It was a tough game out there, tough to concentrate with what was going on inside my head," said Sharp, whose parents came to town for this. "But, thankful that I was able to do that and the Hawks put that video on for me in the third, which was really special, and the guys standing out on the ice and making me do a lap was something I'll always remember. It was a special night."
Sharp confirmed after the game that this will be his last season in the NHL, a decision he was trying to delay for as long as he could.
"I think I've known what I wanted to do for a long period of time here and it's never easy, you know?" Sharp said. "But I think I'm just ready to take that next step in my life, and looking forward to it."
Sharp is one of three Blackhawks — along with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — to have been around during both the dark ages and the renaissance of winning three Stanley Cups.
"Lot of good memories," Sharp said. "All of the games, obviously winning the Stanley Cup the third time on home ice was cool. Just generally speaking, from 2005 until now, how far we've come as an organization and as a team. All the great players I've played with. I'm lucky to be part of it, to be honest with you."
Said Joel Quenneville: "You look back and you think about today's game, and you think about the championships that he was a significant part of and the contribution he made to the team and how he was respected in the locker room, and his leadership and one of the guys [that] was a big part of the success we had.
"It was one of those nights when you think about all the good situation he had here in Chicago and his family grew up here, a lot of good things happened. He was a big part of the community as well. So I wasn't thinking more so about today as opposed to what he has accomplished for us. It was good reflecting back. His career here was special."
As far as what's next, Sharp said he'll take the next couple of months after the season off to enjoy some time away from hockey and continue living in Chicago: "I'm not going anywhere."
The plan for Sharp was always to move back to Chicago when it was all said and done, even if he didn't re-sign here last offseason.
But the fact that he did made it even more special, giving one of the best Blackhawks a proper send-off.
"You never want to come to grips with it to be honest with you," Sharp admitted. "But that's probably one of the reasons I came back. Chicago's my home and it's my family's home. We mentioned that when we left the first time. I'm grateful that I was able to come back and play this year. I know it hasn't been the season that we've all wanted but it really does mean a lot to me."