Kootenay Ice captain Drew Czerwonka has retired from hockey and will head back to Saskatchewan to attend post-secondary school, according to club general manager Jeff Chynoweth.
Czerwonka made the announcement to management on Thursday night, which was finalized on Friday as the 20-year-old veteran was a healthy scratch for the tilt against the Swift Current Broncos.
After a four-year roller coaster career in the WHL, which included getting selected 166th overall in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers and winning a league championship the following year, Czerwonka had “lost the desire to play,” according to Chynoweth.
“I respect his decision,” said Chynoweth. “He’s gone through a lot of injuries and it’s very unfortunate, the timing isn’t great, but more importantly, you want to make sure everything is good with Drew and I think it is and he’s moving on with the next phase of his life.
“It’s a new chapter in his life and for the Kootenay Ice, we have to move forward, it’s a big hole to fill.”
Injuries limited Czerwonka to 40 games last year, as the Ice forward missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury sustained from training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, while a lower body injury forced him to miss 14 games at the end of the season.
The injury bug dogged the veteran into this year’s training camp, as he missed the opening two weeks of the season due to an off-season incident in August with another shoulder injury.
Chynoweth said Czerwonka will return to his home of Glenavon, SK., where he plans to take post-secondary training for welding.
Although Czerwonka’s announcement was unexpected, Chynoweth isn’t panicking over finding another player for the vacated overage position.
“We’re in no rush to fill that extra 20-year-old spot,” Chynoweth said. “We will, but we’ll take our time and make sure we get the right guy, because we’re not going to be able to replace Drew Czerwonka.”
Entering into his fifth career season in the WHL this year, Czerwonka had appeared in 227 games, tallying 48 goals and 110 points. In four post-season campaigns, the veteran played in 27 games and collected five goals and five assists.
A product with the Ice over his career, Czerwonka was taken in the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft in 2007, and previously held the franchise record for most goals scored by a rookie, tallying 16 in 2008/09 before Sam Reinhart broke it last year, with 28.