Former Sabres Captain Brian Gionta announced his retirement from the NHL on Monday afternoon.
Gionta, who is from Rochester, New York, broke into the league with New Jersey and won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003.
After spending the first eight years in his pro career in the Garden State, Gionta would sign a five year contract with the Montreal Canadiens in 2009. He’d spend five seasons with the club and would became just the second American-born player to serve as captain.
Prior to the 2014-2015 season, Gionta returned home to Western New York signing a free agent contract with the Buffalo Sabres. He captained the team all three years with the Blue & Gold.
“A lot of people needed to believe in me. I appreciate the Devils and Lou Lamoriello for his belief in me and giving me a chance to break into the league,” Gionta said Monday. “I’m fortunate enough to play for the Montreal Canadiens, one of the best, most storied franchises in the league. What an experience it was to be a part of that for many years. To cap it off and come back to Western New York and be able to play for your childhood team, the Sabres, was also a highlight of my career.”
After deciding not to re-sign him for the start of the 2017-2018 season, as a free agent, Gionta played one game with his hometown Rochester Americans and scored a goal, before serving as Captain for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
When he returned, he signed to play with the Boston Bruins but would only suit up in 20 games.
In total, Gionta played in 1,026 games and scored 595 career points, so small feat for a player that was considered undersized standing at 5-feet, 7-inches.
“For me I went into it just hoping to play one NHL game. Then from there, it was play as long as you could and as long as you were having fun, enjoying the game with your body holding up,” Gionta added.
“I would have never thought it would have lasted as long as it did. I’m super appreciative of the people that supported me and giving me that chance. They weren’t as readily available, the chances, for smaller guys like me coming through. So, I appreciate the people who stuck their neck out and believed in me.”
Gionta on retirement: That was the plan all along. With how last year went and then coming out of Boston we knew it was time to look at that next phase. #Sabres @news4buffalo— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 24, 2018
Gionta on winning Cup: “Dream come true. It happened so early on you wish you cherished it a littl bit more. You realize how special it was to win it.” #Sabres @news4buffalo— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 24, 2018
Gionta on career: “I went into it hoping to play 1 NHL game and then it was play as long as you could. Never imagined it would have lasted as long as it did.” #Sabres @news4buffalo— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 24, 2018
Gionta: “Last year afforded me a unique situation to know it was coming and prepare for it, but still be a part of it. A lot of the emotion was last summer. After Boston we knew that was the decision. It wasn’t a hard decision…it’s the right decision.” #Sabres— Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) September 24, 2018