The end of an era.
Yesterday, we posted about the possibility of Tuukka Rask’s career ending thanks to his health declining.
From the Statement:
Today is a day I hoped would never come. But now that it’s here, I feel I owe it to everyone to hear it from me. When I made the Decision to have my surgery on my hip last summer, I knew the road to recovery would be challenging. I also knew it was something I would have to do if I wanted to give myself a chance to play my best hockey again. The rehab, the workouts, the practices - all of it was with the intention of getting back to where I needed to be to help my teammates win games and make another run at the Stanley Cup. Over these last few weeks, I’ve realized my body is not responding the way it needs to for me to play at the level I expect of myself and that my teammates and Bruins fans deserve.
Therefor, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the game of hockey.
Rask goes on to thank his many, many teammates throughout the years, the city of Boston and the Bruins organization, and of course, the fans. He states that he’s never wanted to wear another jersey other than this one, and treasures his 15 year career deeply.
Initially drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2005, Tuukka Rask came to the Boston Bruins organization famously off of a trade for Andrew Raycroft. He made his debut two years later in 2007, where he won a 4-2 game against his former drafters, the Leafs. He was since the backup for Tim Thomas right through the Bruins resurgence in the Late 2000’s and into the 2011 Stanley Cup run, becoming the 2nd Finnish goaltender to do so.
Just a year later, Tim Thomas left the game for personal reasons (later revealed to be for his own health), and Rask was named the starter prior to the lockout. In that time, he helped Czech Extraliga team HC Plzen win it all.
He also helped Team Finland win Bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympiad:
He returned from the Extraliga riding some real impressive skills, and in 2013 helped bring the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final, where he gained plenty of plaudits for his unbelievable work against the Pittsburgh Penguins, facing 168 shots in four games, and only allowing two. Arguably his most clutch save came right as the series expired, as he stoned Jarome Iginla in the waning seconds. Though the Bruins couldn’t overcome the Blackhawks, Rask earned himself a nice long contract, cementing himself as the #1.
Rask would win the Vezina trophy not a year later, and even with a re-tooling Bruins, was always able to summon above or league average SV%s from the ether to keep the Bruins stable. As his career began to wind down, the B’s would help him by giving him a 1a-1b situation with many players, Jaroslav Halak being a notable one. He once again brought the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019, yet again posting record save-%’s right until the very end. We don’t need to go into further detail about how that went.
His final game was this year, and it was an inglorious one. In retrospect, he still looked quite hurt, and now we understand why it might be.
Tuukka Rask was always plagued since receiving the starting job and big contract with a small but passionate group of fans who seemed dedicated to finding a way for him to be the reason the Bruins lost games, and discredit his contributions to their wins. Whether it was hurt feelings from previous playoff series, an undercurrent of xenophobia, or just sour grapes from Tim Thomas running off and never returning, the discourse around this player will likely continue in perpetuity forever.
To the Bruins however, it didn’t matter. Because of course it didn’t. They loved the guy. And he loved them back, even when fans weren’t always on his side. They gave him all the plaudits in the world, and even a drum-set when he reached a major milestone.
Tuukka Rask in his career became a beacon of consistency for a team that has undergone massive changes and are likely to see even more. He’s become the longest tenured Bruins goalie, the winningest Bruins goalie in both regular and postseason play, and according to fancy numbers, one of the best of the modern era. He finishes his career with a career .921 SV%, 308 wins, 165 losses, 52 shutouts, and a 2011 Stanley Cup with his name on it.
Tuukka Rask’s career was a gift to a city that will never truly be appreciated until after it’s gone. He will still be hounded, sure, and that will have to be part of the way we talk about him, but Tuukka Rask is a player the Boston Bruins would be very different without.
And I’d rather have lived in this world where he was part of the black and gold, than any of the myriad ways he could’ve gone somewhere else.
Here’s to an absolutely incredible NHL career from one of the best goaltenders to do it in the modern day.
Kiitos paljon, Tuukka.