Bryan Bickell’s 10-year hockey career ended on an emotional note Sunday, after he netted his first shootout goal and helped lift his Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Bickell, who made a triumphant return to the ice last week, announced his retirement from the game Saturday after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in November.
The weekend was chock-full of emotions for the three-time Stanley Cup winner, who was a guest of honor at the 2017 Walk MS at PNC Arena on Saturday. Bickell, 31, was wrapping up a speech to the crowd when his teammates surprised him and showed up wearing T-shirts with his 29 emblazoned on them and the slogan, “Bickell Brave.”
Follow his diagnosis, Bickell spent time away from the rink concentrating on his health.
“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 said Saturday, according to NHL.com. “As the weeks go on in the month, it’s like running low on gas. You just kind of fade off. Some symptoms come, but when you get treatment, you feel energized and full of life. Hopefully it will bring a spark [Saturday] and [Sunday]”
Though Carolina ended their season short of a playoff berth, Bickell was named a starter for the final two games, and on Sunday night got the nod from Coach Bill Peters to take the first shot. Bickell, who had two failed shootout attempts during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, was mobbed by his teammates after the puck went in.
"I think I sweated all the tears out, so I don't have much left," Bickell said according to The Associated Press. "It's been an emotional week leading into this day. Seeing my family here, all the people that supported me through it all, I'm just happy."
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is an unpredictable disease that attacks the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. The severity of the disease cannot be predicted and most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.