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After 1,179 NHL games, Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips has announced his retirement.
Phillips, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft and longest-serving player in Senators history, has been hounded by back issues since Feb. 2015, when he last played an NHL game. After several attempted comebacks, including one this past training camp that ended when he suffered a cracked vertebrae during rehabilitation, the time to hang up his skates had arrived.
“I’d be lying if I haven’t thought about [retiring] for a while just given the past season and how it unfolded,” Phillips said during a Thursday news conference. “I remember we thought at the start of last year I was going to be ready to go at some point and just continually having setbacks and really just going through that basically back to normal life routine, not traveling, still going to the rinks in the morning, but being home and really kind of getting a taste of what life might look like post-hockey career.
"At the same time with the way my back was acting and not healing to a point where it needed to be to play and knowing the reality of not getting any younger and not playing the game in nearly a year and a half, it just wasn’t going to happen. I think I’ve known in my head and my heart for a little while, so today’s a happy day for me.”
Phillips made his NHL debut during the 1997-98 season and finishes with 71 goals and 288 points over 17 seasons, all with the Senators. He would score six times in 114 playoffs games for Ottawa, with his most memorable tally coming in overtime during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, staving off elimination in Game 6.
"He represents loyalty and what it means to be an Ottawa Senator,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.
Internationally, Phillips represented Canada five times, winning back-to-back gold medals at the 1996 and 1997 World Junior Championships and a pair of silvers at the World Championships.
Phillips and his wife also provided a huge presence in the community, helping 22 charities during their time in Ottawa, including most recently raising funds to help his hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which was ravaged by fires. It's no surprise he'll move into a front office role with the Senators working with team alumni and in community engagement.
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