BRANDON — Dan Girardi has a good sense of timing. He knows when to crack a joke, when to be serious, when to stay quiet.
After 13 seasons, Girardi knows it’s time to step away from the game. The former Lightning defenseman announced his retirement Friday.
In a statement, the 35-year-old joked that his body is happy with his decision.
“I gave my all every single night and left it all out on the ice,” he said. “Now it’s time for the next chapter of my life to begin, and I couldn’t be happier … and so is my body.”
Girardi became an unrestricted free agent after last season with the Lightning, which declined to re-sign him. But they knew they’d miss his personality in the dressing room.
“He brought a lot of life to the room with his sense of humor,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I think that’s why he was adored by everybody, because of how hard he played on the ice and how great of a guy he was off (it).”
Victor Hedman, who was paired with Girardi for much of Girardi’s two seasons in Tampa Bay, called him a “great human being” and the funniest player on the team.
“He can look back at an unbelievable career,” Hedman said. “I’m just happy he’s still in Tampa and I’ll still see him around.”
Girardi played his first 11 years with the Rangers. He was a traditional stay-at-home defenseman, with 264 points in 927 games. Girardi’s teams made it to the playoffs 12 of his 13 years, including both with the Lightning. He is 30th all time among defenseman with 143 playoff games.
Since the league started reporting blocked shots in 2005, Girardi has been credited with the most, 1,954. He led the Lightning in blocked shots over his two seasons with 263.
Hedman also credited Girardi’s team-first attitude, particularly in the way he blocked shots. Girardi once took a shot to the neck “and he didn’t care,” Hedman said.
Cooper cited Girardi’s fearlessness, calling him the ultimate teammate. He said Girardi was the kind of player who, with five seconds left and the game in hand, was still blocking the shot “just because.”
In a video the Rangers posted on Twitter, Henrik Lundqvist said that as a goalie, he appreciates the way Girardi played the game. It was “amazing to watch and amazing to be a teammate,” he said.
In the same video, defenseman Marc Staal told Girardi to “enjoy not taking slap shots to the ankle anymore” and said he deserves the time off.
Ryan Callahan, who played with Girardi on both teams, posted well wishes on Twitter, calling Girardi “a team-first guy who was loved by all his teammates,” and included photos of the two throughout the years.
G money congrats on what was a unbelievable career!! We had so many great memories throughout the years together. You exemplify what it means to be a professional. You were a team first guy who was loved by all his teammates. Enjoy retirement you earned it!! pic.twitter.com/T1kiZoekld— Ryan Callahan (@TheRealCally24) September 20, 2019
In his statement, Girardi thanked the Rangers for giving him a chance to fulfill his childhood dream and the Lightning, with whom he signed as a free agent in 2017, for giving him a chance to continue his career. He also thanked his wife, Pamela, for her support and their two kids, Landon and Shaye, “for being Daddy’s No. 1 fans.”
“The last two years in Tampa Bay have been so much fun for me and my family,” he said. “I will always fondly remember my time here.”
General manager Julien BriseBois issued a statement congratulating Girardi, saying “his sense of humor created a lasting legacy off the ice.”
Cooper joked that he was the beneficiary of Girardi’s personality for two years and now his kid will be. Girardi is coaching Jonny Cooper’s youth team this year.
Diana C. Nearhos is the Lightning beat reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.