COLUMBUS — Rick Nash was honored by the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to their game against the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena on Sunday.
Nash, 34, announced his retirement Friday after 15 NHL seasons because of medical reasons.
“[Retirement has] been good,” Nash told former teammate Jody Shelley during an interview with Fox Sports Ohio. “It’s been nice to spend some time with the family and move on to the next chapter in my life and my career.”
Selected by the Blue Jackets with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, Nash spent his first nine seasons in Columbus and is the their all-time leader in games played (674), goals (289), assists (258) and points (547). He was traded to the Rangers on July 23, 2012, and spent more than five seasons (375 games) in New York before being acquired by the Boston Bruins, where he played 11 games, ahead of the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.
“It’s pretty cool,” Nash said. “I had so many good times, so many good memories. Columbus has always had a soft spot in my heart. It’s nice to close out the career this way back in Columbus.”
Nash kept a home in Columbus with his wife Jessica and their three children while playing for the Rangers and Bruins.
“Now I get to raise my kids in this city and live here for the rest of my life,” Nash said.
With numerous No. 61 jerseys in the stands, Nash was joined on ice by his family for the ceremonial puck drop, which was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation.
“I had a few people ask me if I was going to get booed,” he said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, when I was with the Rangers,’ but Columbus has always been home to me. I’ve admired the passion of the fans.”
The Blue Jackets and Rangers players lined their respective blue lines and greeted him with stick taps, but moved off to watch the tribute on the overhead video board, which carried the message, “Thank you Rick.”
One of those players was forward Cam Atkinson, who is second in Blue Jackets history in goals (171) and points (319).
“I have a long way to go for a lot of them (records), but it’s kind of cool to see a guy who I looked up to and to pass him in some stats is a pretty humbling feeling,” Atkinson said.
“It’s no secret he really helped, if not put Columbus on the map, especially with hockey. Fans realize how important he is to this franchise and the city of Columbus, and he will continue to be moving forward.”
Nash had 252 points (145 goals, 107 assists) for New York and six points (three goals, three assists) for Boston to finish with 805 points (437 goals, 368 assists) in 1060 NHL games. He had 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 89 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“He was just a great pro for me,” said Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who coached him with the Rangers in 2012-13. “Didn’t say boo. Played, killed penalties. He did everything there.
“I have nothing but true respect for him.”
Nash ended the ceremony by waving to the crowd before standing in front of the Blue Jackets bench for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Atkinson, Nash’s neighbor, already knows how part of his retirement will go, noting the two are golfing buddies.
“I texted him a couple of days ago once he announced his retirement and said I’m looking forward to this summer and teeing up with you and getting to a better level of friendship,” Atkinson said.