Veteran forward Bryan Bickell scored a goal in his final NHL game Sunday, as the Carolina Hurricanes squeaked by the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in a shootout in the season finale.
Bickell was back in the news this week when he returned to the lineup after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November.
The Bowmanville, Ontario, native came back in February, playing 10 games for the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. He scored one goal in his AHL stint before being recalled to the Hurricanes last week.
The 31-year-old was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Bickell made his professional debut in 2006 with the Norfolk Admirals, which later became the Rockford IceHogs. He scored 10 goals in 48 games in his first year in Norfolk, and two goals in three contests with the Blackhawks that season.
After two full seasons in Rockford, he joined Chicago for four games in the 2010 postseason as the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. He made an immediate impact the following year, finishing the 2010-11 campaign with 17 goals and 20 assists.
Bickell played five more seasons in Chicago, helping the Hawks win the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup. In the 2013 playoffs, he scored nine goals, including the equalizer in Game 6 of the Final, a game Chicago would win to take the series. He went into the next season with a new four-year, $16 million contract and turned in solid performances the next two years.
In 2015, Bickell began experiencing blurred vision and vertigo, attributing the symptoms to an infected tooth and was even treated for a possible concussion. He was later treated for shoulder pain although doctors did not discover anything that would keep him off the ice. Bickell was again cleared to play, keeping coaches, pundits, and Bickell himself wondering what had happened to his game.
As Chicago began trading away several key players for salary cap purposes, a reported deal to move Bickell to the Edmonton Oilers fell through, and he remained with the Blackhawks at the start of the 2015-16 slate. His health, however, came into question again. A litany of unexplained symptoms and low numbers kept him in and out of the Blackhawks’ lineup, and he was placed on waivers, then sent down to Rockford. He eventually returned to Chicago but again made little impact and was shipped back to the IceHogs. Bickell would spend the majority of the 2015-16 season with AHL Rockford, finishing with 15 goals and 16 assists in 47 games.
In June 2016, Bickell was traded to Carolina along with Teuvo Teravainen. The Hurricanes gave Chicago two draft picks and also agreed to carry the remaining salary-cap hit and the remainder of Bickell’s contract.
Not long after the 2016-17 season began, Bickell noticed his body was not reacting the way it should. His coordination was off and his legs were weak. An MRI revealed the reason, and he received the MS diagnosis on Nov. 11, just five months after landing in Carolina.
Bickell was placed on injured reserve Nov. 12. He returned to practice in January and assigned to AHL Charlotte Feb. 24.
Bickell returned to the Carolina lineup April 5. He announced his retirement Saturday, April 8, 2017. He finishes his NHL career with 66 goals and 70 assists in 395 regular season games. The three-time Stanley Cup winner also skated in 75 playoff games, logging 20 goals and 19 assists.
Bickell hasn’t announced his future plans, however, he and his wife still run the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation, an organization that helps rescue pit bulls.
[Featured Image by Jason Halstead/Getty Images]