Johnny Boychuk Retires Because of Eye Injury

Earlier today, New York Islanders’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk announced that he was retiring from professional hockey due to an eye injury suffered during their March 3rd game against the Montreal Canadiens. He was kicked in the eye by the Canadiens’ Arturri Lehkonen in a freak accident. The wound required more than 90 stitches to close in addition to plastic surgery. This was the second injury to that eye. While no immediate vision problems were apparent, when Boychuk returned to the team during the playoffs, he got blindsided by a hit from Florida Panthers’ defenseman Mike Matheson that left him concussed. It was a dirty hit no matter what, but Boychuk said today that not long after the hit, he realized he should’ve seen it coming at least a little bit, and that’s when he started to realize there were problems. 

As the bubble stretched on and the Islanders returned home, those vision issues became more apparent. So, he underwent tests to see the extent of it. Those tests showed that he had severely limited peripheral vision and optical nerve damage. That all led to today’s announcement. According to an emotional Boychuk during a Zoom media availability today, he didn’t even think “it was a decision. When you play with it and realize there’s something wrong, and then you go and get tests, it really wasn’t a decision; it was a life choice, I guess. If I was to go and play again and not able to see somebody coming and get hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”

Boychuk’s Career

His Career Began With the Avalanche Organization

Johnny Boychuk was drafted in the second round, 61st overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He’d play just four games for the Colorado Avalanche in his career. All of them were during the 2007-08 season, and he had zero goals or assists through them. He also played 294 AHL games over the course of four seasons with the Avalanche organization. Those games were split between four different teams, which is a little weird. But anyway, during those games, he tallied 27 goals and 74 assists for a total of 101 points. Boychuk was then traded to the Boston Bruins on June 24th, 2008 for Matt Hendricks.

Bruins Days

Boychuk spent all but one game of his first season with the Bruins down in Providence. In that one game, he put up zero points. However, the 78 games spent down in Providence that year were his most productive since entering the league, as he produced 20 goals and 46 assists for a total of 66 points. The following season, after paying his dues in the minors for five years, Boychuk made the permanent jump to the NHL at the age of 25. He’d go on to win the Cup with the Bruins in 2011, and make it back to the Cup Final in 2013, when they ultimately fell short to the Chicago Blackhawks. All told, he spent six seasons with the Bruins organization, over which he played in 317 games and tallied 19 goals and 56 assists for a total of 75 points. 

He was then traded to the New York Islanders on October 4th, 2014 for two seconds round picks. One of them ws in the 2015 draft, and it was originally Philadelphia’s and was used to select Brandon Carlo. The other was in the 2016 draft, and it was used to select Ryan Lindgren (who has since been traded to the New York Rangers with Ryan Spooner, Matt Belesky, and the Bruins’ 2018 first-round pick and 2019 seventh-round pick in exchange for Rick Nash).


Boychuk spent his last six seasons in the NHL with the Islanders. Over that time, he appeared in 404 games, over which he put up 35 goals and 96 assists for a total of 131 points. He was also an alternate captain for the team in his last two seasons. All told, Boychuk appeared in 725 career NHL games between three teams over the course of 13 seasons, over which he produced 54 goals and 152 assists for a total of 206 points.

Boychuk Was An Even Better Teammate Than He Was a Player

While Boychuk was a good player, he was an even better person off the ice. He was known as a warrior for his play on the ice, but he was one of the nicest guys in the game off of it. He was a consummate professional, active in the community, and an all-around great guy that teams love to have. I’ve never seen anyone say a bad thing about Boychuk. He truly is an amazing person. The love his teammates had for him was extremely evident today, as messages were pouring in from them on social media congratulating him on a great career and thanking him for everything he did for them. Here are just a few of those tweets.

Boychuk Was Also a Fan Favorite

Boychuk was not only beloved by teammates but fans too. He played an old-school, hard-nosed (but clean) style of hockey, which Bruins fans absolutely adore. He also had an absolute cannon of a shot, earning the nickname “Johnny Rocket” because of it (and his shots were also called that sometimes). Trading Boychuk left a hole in the Bruins locker room and in the hearts of fans. It needed to be done due to salary cap issues, but it hurt badly because everybody loved him so much.

The 2011 Bruins team is regarded as one of the most special Bruins teams in recent memory because of their talent and obvious chemistry. Boychuk was a huge part of that, and his contributions will never be forgotten by Bruins fans. Also, while his play started to decline once he got to the Islanders due to age and injuries, he still managed to be an integral member of the team because of his dedication to the game, as well as his off-ice contributions.

Congratulations and Best of Luck in the Future, Johnny!

It’s extremely sad that this is the way Boychuk’s career is ending. It’s sad anytime a player is forced to retire due to injury and not on their own terms is sad. But, as a Bruins fan, this one hits a little harder than most. But, I think I speak for most people when I say I’m glad he’s doing what’s best for him, and I wish him all the best in the future with his health and life in general! From all of us here at Couch Guy Sports, congrats on an amazing career Johnny and enjoy retirement!

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of hitmenhockey.com.

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