Luke Beaverson became the first player to announce his retirement Tuesday.
The 26-year-old defenseman said he plans to complete his bachelor’s degree from his native Minnesota, then move on to whatever’s next. The 2010-11 season was the best statistically of his three professional seasons. Beaverson appeared in 61 games, recording three goals, 10 assists and 78 penalty minutes — all career highs. His minus-5 rating matched James McEwan for the best among players who started and ended the season in Ontario, which is all the more impressive considering he often skated against the opposing team’s best forwards.
The soft-spoken veteran picked up some of the leadership slack when Chad Starling and Jon Francisco were lost for the season to injuries. At 6-foot-4, Beaverson was usually among the biggest players on the ice and will leave some big skates to fill.
Here’s how our (last?) interview went:
How do you evaluate your season?
Personally I had a pretty good season. It was a fun season. There were tough times. Everyone on the team is disappointed with not making playoffs. That was tough. It was fun playing with the boys.
What made it fun?
We just had a good locker room. Even when it was tough, guys in the locker room were still happy to be at the rink. That’s the toughest thing. When you’re losing and guys start not wanting to come to the rink, whatever. But everybody always wanted to come to the rink, get better and have a good time.
It seemed like you bounced back from your (lower-body) injury after missing about a month?
Yeah. It was tough the first couple games, but after that I felt pretty good coming back. That’s just a testament to our training staff, making sure guys get the medical assistance they need to stay in shape.
Why do you think the team played poorly for so long, then picked it up at the end?
It’s kind of one of those things where, looking back on it, we had the same core group of guys at the beginning and the end. It’s kind of one of those mysteries. It’s hard to say.
How did the season-ending injuries to Jon Francisco and especially Chad Starling affect your role?
Definitely when Chad went down I knew that the older guys would be logging more ice time. Franny’s a good guy to have in the locker room. He talks a lot in the locker room, gets the guys going. With those guys out, that definitely affected our team a little bit, but guys got through it. It was all right.
Did you become more talkative in the room?
Maybe not me personally, but maybe some other guys.
Where do you see yourself next year?
I’m pretty sure this was my last year. I’ll be back home in Minnesota to try and find a job.
Did you feel this was going to be it at the beginning of the year, or did something change your mind during the season?
I think going into the year I was kind of set that this would end up being my last year depending on how things went. So I’ve been prepping myself for it.
Shawn Germain said he was going to retire last year.
I never say never. We’ll see.
What non-hockey options are you looking at?
I’m interested in firefighting, but that can be tough to get into. We’ll see. I’ve got one class to finish before graduating (from the University of Alaska-Anchorage). But once I get my degree, I’ll try to find something. I’m going to take the class at the University of Minnesota then transfer it to graduate.
What will the degree be in?
But you don’t want to go into that?
I don’t think so.
If Saturday was your last game, are you satisfied with the way you went out?
I would have loved to make playoffs. That would have been awesome. To be honest, the way we played our last 10 games was pretty impressive. I was impressed with the way the guys played. We won most of those games and it felt good. You don’t want to go out losing. We lost our last game, which kinda sucks, but it’s all right.
If you see that Karl brings back the same core group, do you think they would be able to keep that late-season success going next season?
Definitely. If we were playing like we were playing this last bit the whole year, we’d be in the playoffs without a doubt. Without a doubt. If he had the same guys coming back, I’d be willing to bet they’d be in the playoffs for sure.