Faceoff ace Vermette retires after 14 NHL seasons
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
Center Antoine Vermette retires as one of the best faceoff specialists of his generation.
Vermette announced Wednesday he was calling it a career after 14 NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. The 36-year-old from Quebec won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2015 and most recently played for the Ducks, but he didn't sign with a team after becoming a free agent last summer.
"I am immensely grateful for all these incredible years punctuated by memorable moments that I will cherish forever," Vermette said in a statement sent through the NHL Players' Association. "It was a privilege sharing my daily life with teammates, to forging friendships that will endure well beyond the victories and defeats."
In the faceoff circle, Vermette had far more victories than defeats. He won 56.6 percent of his faceoffs, the ninth-best mark since the league began tracking the statistic in 1997-98.
Vermette's 8,948 faceoff wins are 14th-most all-time, and he led the league in faceoff percentage in his final season in 2017-18. Longtime agent Allan Walsh said Vermette constantly worked on his faceoff techniques always looking for an edge and was proud of his expertise in that department.
"He was a guy that would always be relied upon to go out there in key moments of a game, especially faceoffs in the defensive zone or offensive zone to go out there and win the faceoff," Walsh said. "We know how important possession is nowadays. Being able to control the puck on the (power play or penalty kill) or the last minute and a half of the game with a faceoff in the O-zone with the goalie on the bench is sometimes half the battle right there."
Vermette put up 228 goals and 287 assists for 515 points in 1,046 regular-season games. He had 28 points and a faceoff percentage of 57.9 during 97 playoff games and helped the Blackhawks win the Cup in 2015 after being picked up at the trade deadline.
"Obviously, he played a different role based on how strong the team was and especially down the middle," Walsh said. "He's a guy that whether it was to be more of a two-way shutdown guy or to be counted on to provide offense, he had some years where he scored a lot of goals and put up a lot of points."
Vermette also had a 482-game ironman streak that lasted from March 2009 until October 2015.
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