When Patric Hornqvist was close to announcing his retirement after 15 seasons in the NHL, Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito expressed hope he would stick around.
Wednesday, the team made it official.
Hornqvist, 36, will be part of the Panthers’ hockey operations department as a development consultant and scout.
“He is back home and we’re talking,’’ Zito said at the NHL Draft in Nashville. “We would like to keep him in the organization. We would be thrilled to do something and I can’t thank him enough for his contribution. I think we are someplace today and he is a significant reason.
“Rarely in life can you point to an individual and say what a collective achievement (he meant) but in this case you can. He has been a wonderful teammate and a wonderful Panther. We have a sincere and deep gratitude for everything he has done for our organization.’’
Hornqvist officially announced his retirement a few days after Zito talked about it in June, and was spotted with the rest of the team’s front office at the Southeast Rookie Showcase in Estero this past weekend.
Speaking to Sweden’s Sportsbladet, Hornqvist said due to the concussions which ended his past season in December, he could not continue to play.
Hornqvist’s final NHL game was Dec. 3 in Seattle, a game he was forced to leave early after taking an elbow to the head from Daniel Sprong.
He did not play for the Panthers following that second concussion.
Hornqvist ended up playing 901 games over 15 seasons with Nashville, Pittsburgh and the Panthers, scoring 264 goals with 543 points. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins — leading them to the 2017 title with a Game 6 goal in Nashville.
“Hockey has been a huge part of life ever since I was a kid, so of course it’s a difficult decision to make,” Hornqvist said as per Google translate, “but I have my injury history and don’t want to risk anything in the future. Therefore, I have finished playing. …
“I feel good now and hopefully have many good years ahead of me. With my injury history I don’t want to risk future ones.’’
Hornqvist was not the only personnel move announced by Zito on Wednesday.
Paul Krepelka, who has been an assistant general manager for the Panthers since 2021, has been promoted to senior vice president.
Gregory Campbell, who played for the Panthers from 2003-10, has been promoted to assistant general manager along with Sunny Mehta.
Joakim Hedlund was promoted to director of European scouting.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Thursday-Sunday: Training Camp, Coral Springs IceDen
- Monday: Preseason Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise; 2 and 6 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)