Zack Kassian, once an endearing figure among Edmonton hockey enthusiasts for his intense gaze, swift footwork and formidable brawn, bid his final farewell to the realm of NHL hockey on this past Thursday.
In memoriam of his departure, the Edmonton Oilers took to X, sharing a heartfelt image of the robust forward in one of his celebratory moments after clinching a goal, his face adorned with a distinctive Wolverine-esque facial fuzz.
Over a remarkable span of 12 years in the NHL, Kassian dedicated seven to Edmonton, where he saw the major slice of his 203 career points accrue, inclusive of successive seasons with 15 goals apiece.
The charm of simply partaking in NHL was one facet, but sustaining a career for a dozen years was a feat in itself, as Kassian expressed to the NHL Players’ Association. Besides his managers and fellow athletes, he also credits the hardworking equipment crew, having fostered countless bonds destined to span lifetimes.
Born into the world of professional hockey with a draft by Buffalo, and stints with the Vancouver Canucks, Kassian landed in the Oilers’ camp in 2015, following a struggle with substance misuse while in Montreal.
Kassian has candidly spoken about embarking on a path towards sobriety, involving rehabilitation, followed by a resurge in his career in Edmonton.
However, the tides of change swept him towards Arizona during the NHL draft of 2022, which allowed his former team to manage their cap space more efficiently. Upon his return to Edmonton as a Coyote, he recollected the vital support he experienced here, a city he cherishes for delivering a plethora of memories and everlasting friendships. Edmonton also witnessed the birth of his children.
Throughout Kassian’s NHL journey, the clock recorded 913 penalty minutes against his name, establishing him as one of the most intimidating enforcers of his era.
The Oilers’ head coach, Jay Woodcroft, reminisced about Kassian’s tenure with the Oilers, lauding his tremendous work ethic, his exceptional fitness, and more importantly, his personality that made him an invaluable player for the team.
Kassian’s journey with Coyotes allowed him to take part in 51 games last year, contributing two goals, before the club decided to buy him out of his contract in June.
He even celebrated a goal alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at an NHL game held in Anaheim, Calif., on April 3, 2022, sowing another memorable moment into the rich tapestry of his NHL career.