He technically retires as a member of the New Jersey Devils, but Corey Crawford will always be remembered as a star with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 36-year-old won two Stanley Cups with the Hawks and spent 10 years in the NHL with the team before signing with New Jersey in the off-season, but he’ll never play a game in anything but a Chicago jersey now.
The reasons behind Crawford’s retirement are not specifically known and while he released a statement upon announcing the news, the netminder is not making any further comments at this time. What is known is that Crawford tried to make a go of it this season with the Devils, but ultimately decided it was time to hang up his blocker.
“I wanted to continue my career, but believe I’ve given all I can to the game of hockey,” he said. “I would like to thank the New Jersey Devils organization for understanding and supporting my decision. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for giving me the chance to live my childhood dream.”
Crawford has battled with injuries the past few seasons and concussions have been the primary culprit. Given all we know about brain injuries, it’s understandable that someone who has gone through the wars with concussions would not want to take any more chances, particularly since he is a family man.
The key part of Crawford’s statement to me is the reference to giving hockey all he could. No one can dispute this: the life of a pro hockey player is grand, to be sure, but it’s also a grind. Last season’s playoff bubble magnified that grind even further, isolating players completely from their loved ones. Chicago may not have spent a long time in the bubble, but the Hawks were still there.
Crawford put in 10 solid years in the NHL, but he also spent five seasons before that as a pro, mainly in the AHL with Rockford, plus the occasional start with Chicago. So yes, he’s put in his due. And truly, he put as much – if not more – into the game as he got in return.
In terms of legacy, Crawford retires as one of the best goalies in Chicago’s history, right up there with Tony Esposito and Glenn Hall. That’s heady company, but neither of those Hall of Famers have as many Cups as Crawford (though he’s the only of the three never to win a Vezina, having to settle for two Jennings trophies).
Is he a Hall of Famer? Probably not, since on his own dynasty Hawks teams, he’s likely behind Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. In terms of goaltending peers from this era, he’s behind Carey Price, Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist – plus Martin Brodeur has already been inducted.
But Chicago should seriously consider retiring his No. 50 if they haven’t planned on it already. Crawford was the backbone of an incredibly good team during the Hawks’ finest era ever. Even at the end of his career, Crawford was excellent in turning aside Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers in an upset series win in the Return to Play bubble.
As for the New Jersey Devils, the timing of this obviously isn’t ideal, but the organization has options. Mackenzie Blackwood was very good last year and in a 56-game season, he should be able to carry much of the load. New Jersey could still add a veteran to help Blackwood out, with options such as Jimmy Howard already on the market. This was still going to be a rebuilding year in New Jersey anyhow, though it would have been nice to have Crawford on board.
Nonetheless, ‘Crow’ has made his choice and it’s important to respect it. He was a winner, he was a battler and his legacy is clear.