Swedish star Zetterberg retires after 15 NHL seasons

Henrik Zetterberg in action. (AFP pic)

LOS ANGELES: Swedish star Henrik Zetterberg, who was named MVP of the 2008 Stanley Cup finals, announced his retirement Friday after 15 seasons in the National Hockey League.

Zetterberg ends his brilliant career with a total of 337 goals and 623 assists, all coming while a member of the Detroit Red Wings.

The 37-year-old Zetterberg is also one of the most decorated international players for Sweden, having won a gold medal at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

He is one of just 28 players to be part of the “Triple Gold Club,” having won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and world title in their careers. He led the Wings to an NHL championship in the 2007-08 season.

Zetterberg decided to hang up his skates after missing a good portion of last season with back problems. He had hoped his health would improve over the summer but when he met with team doctors last week he was told, “nothing really had changed.”

“He’s got a degenerative condition in his back,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Part of the degenerative condition is significant arthritis. Nothing can be done. No back surgery. No rehab. No more time off is going to have any positive impact.

“Obviously if he plays professional hockey, it’s going to accelerate the degeneration, and if he does get a bad hit or something, then he’s risking a significant back surgery.

“Henrik has decided that his quality of life is more important than taking the risk of back surgery.”

A native of Njurunda, Zetterberg was another of Holland’s diamond in the rough finds in the late rounds of the NHL entry draft, taken in 1999 with the 210th overall pick.

Zetterberg made the leap to the NHL from the Swedish Elite League in 2002 as a 22-year-old rookie, posting 22 goals and 22 assists.

From 2005 to 2008, Zetterberg notched four straight 30-plus goal campaigns, highlighted by a career high 43 goals in 2007-08 championship season.