Alaska Aces winger Barrett Heisten, out since Dec. 19 with a concussion, today retired from hockey because of the severity of his injury.
Heisten, 27, who grew up in Anchorage, helped the Aces to the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2006. This season, he played 23 games before suffering concussion symptoms. He sat out one game then returned for the next, but he suffered recurring symptoms and has not played since.
Heisten grew up in Anchorage and briefly skated in the NHL with the New York Rangers. He was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 1999, the same year he won a national Division I college championship with the University of Maine.
Heisten has a history of concussions, he has said, and his latest was clearly the worst of them. He returned to practicing with the team in early- and mid-January, in non-contact drills only, but he has not practiced in the last week or so.
"For a guy like Barrett, who loves hockey so much, it's tough,'' said Aces captain Matt Shasby, who grew up playing on youth hockey teams with Heisten before they played three seasons together as pros with the Aces. "I think Barrett loves hockey more than any guy I've ever met.''
Heisten retired following last season but changed his mind before this season, which he began as the Aces' captain. He also coaches youth hockey in Anchorage.
"Every kid who comes across his path is going to be fortunate,'' Shasby said. "He's going to make an impact with his passion and his teaching.''
Aces coach Keith McCambridge said he filed Heisten's retirement papers with the ECHL on Monday.
"We've been talking about it,'' McCambridge said of recent discussions with Heisten. "As an organization, we're looking at Barrett's well-being five years down the road, being able to function like he is today.''
McCambridge played with Heisten on the 2006 team that won the Kelly Cup.
"Every shift, Barrett gave it his all,'' McCambridge said.
Heisten played seven seasons as a pro. He played 10 games in the NHL, 192 in the American Hockey League and 148 in the ECHL.
He was best known for his combination of skill and grit. In 148 regular-season games with the Aces, Heisten scored 50 goals, 95 assists and 145 points, and also racked up 302 penalty minutes.