Krejci – an anchor down the middle for 15 seasons — returned to Boston last summer on a one-year contract following a single-season stint in his native Czechia. Although retirement wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the year, many assumed that this season would be the 37-year-old’s last.
Krejci indicated that health was a major factor in his decision, as was time with his family, who were not with him in Boston this past season.
“Everything kind of got together, injuries and, you know, missing the family,” Krejci said during Tuesday’s Zoom call with the media. “I knew my body couldn’t take 82 games anymore.”
Although officially retired from the NHL, Krejci did not completely rule out playing internationally down the road.
“I know my body can’t take the whole [NHL] season. I have things that I would have to get done which would involve surgeries, and at my age, I’m not ready to do that,” Krejci said. “This year, the World Championships are in Prague… It’s just kind of in the back of my head.”
Krejci’s decision to return to the NHL for one final tour enabled him to accomplish one of the rarest achievements in the history of the league – playing 1,000 games with a single franchise.
Throughout those 1,032 regular season games, Krejci amassed 786 points, and led the league in points during the 2011 and 2013 playoffs. Krejci finished his illustrious Bruins career tied for second all-time in postseason scoring.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in what an accomplishment [1,000 games with one franchise] actually is,” Krejci said.” I guess I’ll realize that later.”
The 2004 second-round pick had to navigate a long road to cement his status as a franchise icon. At the beginning of his career, Krejci looked up to a crowded field of centers led by Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard.
Naturally, Krejci spoke very highly of his relationships with both former teammates. The camaraderie allowed Krejci to achieve such longevity in the best league in the world.
“I learned so much from them,” Krejci said. “I was just trying to keep up with Bergy every year, trying to be as good as him or get as close as I could…he pushed me hard in the summer. I take pride in my summer workouts every year, and it’s mainly because of Bergy. I know how hard he works and I had to work as hard just to be in the same position.”
As the years progressed, Krejci assumed a mentorship role to usher in a new generation of Bruins. Krejci spoke highly of one relationship in particular: the immediate bond between himself and fellow countryman David Pastrnak.
Last summer Pastrnak helped recruit Krejci back to Boston, where the two formed a dynamic on-ice connection, supported by fellow Czech Pavel Zacha during a historic 2022-23 regular season.
“[Me and Pasta] kind of hit it off since day one. We became best friends,” Krejci said. “When he first showed up at 18 years old we knew he’s got skills, he’s a good player, but you can’t predict the career he’s had… there’s one thing he’s missing, the Stanley Cup and I think he has a good chance with the Bruins.”
The Bruins had a golden opportunity to hoist another Cup for Krejci, as well as Pastrnak, entering the spring. But they found themselves on the wrong end of a historic upset at the hands of the Florida Panthers in the first round.
“I put [the First Round loss] behind me,” Krejci said. “I’m really trying to go down memory lane and appreciate all those little things and not really think about last year… It’s a missed opportunity, and it’s always going to be right there next to 2019 and 2013.”
Bergeron and Krejci served as two of Boston’s primary linchpins for the last 15 years. Although both are merely days or weeks into retirement, curiosity naturally arose regarding the future of the pair of Bruins’ legends.
Krejci didn’t appear too keen on the idea of coaching but left the door open on scouting. But first, he’ll spend some well-earned time with his family down in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I don’t want to do anything right now, to be honest,” Krejci said. “Down the road, you never know. I definitely want to be involved in hockey in some way or another.”
Whenever Krejci does return to the Bruins or hockey off the ice, the opportunity will be there for him. A career full of hefty accomplishments has granted the Bruins legend that, at the very least.
“I just wanted to play the best I could to represent myself, my family, the city of Boston and the Bruins organization the best I could,” Krejci said. “I think for the most part, I’ve done that, and everybody’s gonna remember me the way they want to remember me and that’s fine with me. It’s totally up to them.”
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