Joonas Donskoi announced his retirement from a seven-year playing career in the National Hockey League on Sunday, ending a near year-long saga of questions regarding his health and recovery.
Donskoi, who entered this summer as an unrestricted free agent, officially posted the announcement on Sunday afternoon, citing health concerns tied to “multiple concussions” over his career, ending in Seattle as a member of inaugural Kraken roster.
“It is extremely hard to let go of something you have put your whole life into, but at this point I know it’s the right decision for my own well being and future,” Donskoi said via Instagram.
He was last seen in game action last September 29 in a preseason 4-3 overtime win at Vancouver, when Donskoi collided with teammate Kole Lind. The 31-year old forward reportedly sustained his seventh concussion and suffered issues with vision, vertigo, and headaches, according to Tiia Honkamaa of Finnish outlet Jatkoaia.
Donskoi, who had 22 points in 75 games previously in 2021-22, never suited up again, missing the entire 2022-23 regular season and postseason.
It brings a premature end to a career that had blossomed into 69 games of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 15 goals and an iconic overtime winner against Pittsburgh in Game 3 of the 2016 Cup Final for San Jose, but will fall short of the ultimate prize.
“Maybe after I’m done with my career that’s something nice to look back on, but we weren’t able to win that series,” Donskoi told 93.3 KJR-FM at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. “I want to win, and I want to raise the Cup one day. That’s something you dream about. That’s why you go to the rink every day and try to make yourself better.”
He collected 80 goals and 208 points in 474 career games with the Kraken, Sharks, and Colorado Avalanche, earning a reputation as an abrasive forward with skating ability, defensive aptitude, and hints of a finishing offensive touch. Donskoi arrived in Seattle with much fanfare, selected from Colorado in the expansion draft two years ago while coming off a career-high 17 goals and with wife, Devin, celebrating the birth of their first son Declan, just a month after the expansion draft. But admist a slow start for the team and a tough stretch of puck luck, his production suffered, scoring a career-low two goals and waiting until February to bury his first goal of the season.
Even during last season’s absence while settling into his Kirkland, Wash. residence, Donskoi still maintained a modest presence in the community which included an honorary captaincy appearance at the team’s annual mid-season skills competition event. He also hand-delivered Stanley Cup Playoff tickets to a local school in Seattle during the second round in May.
A month prior, he and Devin also announced their second son is on the way, even enlisting the help of team mascot, Buoy, in a gender reveal event at Kraken Community Iceplex, the team’s practice headquarters.
Donskoi leaves his playing career with an engravement in Kraken history. He was in the lineup for the team’s historic opener on October 12, 2021 against the Vegas Golden Knights, and scored the decisive goal in the team’s first shootout win in franchise history, three months later at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I got to live my dream of being an NHL player, which I’m extremely blessed and grateful for,” Donskoi said via Instagram.
“I think I was able to reach my own potential, which was always my biggest goal.”