By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Darryl Sydor has decided that 18 seasons is enough so he has brought an end to his playing career.
“I know I believe in myself and my family believes in me,” the 38-year-old Sydor said Tuesday evening. “It was a tough decision . . . after 18 years . . . there were a lot of tears and emotions from everyone.”
Sydor, a defenceman who played four seasons (1988-92) with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and now owns a piece of the team, has already started his next career. He now is an assistant coach with the Houston Aeros, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Sydor is working this week at the Wild’s development camp at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.
With the Blazers, Sydor played 227 regular-season games, totaling 274 points. He played in another 61 playoff games as the Blazers won two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup.
In a seven-game victory over the Tri-City Americans in 1991, Sydor finished with 21 points, including 18 assists. That included a goal and six assists in an 11-5 victory in Game 1.
An Edmonton native, Sydor was selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the seventh overall pick of the NHL’s 1990 draft. He went on to play 1,291 regular-season and 155 playoff games in the NHL. He had 507 regular-season points and added another 56 in the playoffs.
He played with the Kings, Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, winning Stanley Cups in Dallas (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004). He also was an all-star in 1997-98 and 1998-99, while with Dallas.
Last summer, Sydor signed a free-agent deal with the Blues. He got into 47 games, but didn’t play a lot in the season’s second half. Still, he felt he wanted more.
“Deep down, after the season . . . I still wanted to play another year,” he said. “I would have liked to have gotten one more year in.”
An unrestricted free agent, he checked the market on and immediately after July 1 but wasn’t able to find any takers.
“There wasn’t much going on,” he said. “When you get more coaching offers than playing offers, sometimes you have to take a step back and take a look in the mirror.”
Still, he knew he wanted to stay actively involved in the game. All told, he said he heard from three teams wanting him to work in the minors. But it was the phone calls from Mike Yeo, who was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh when Sydor played with the Penguins, and Chuck Fletcher, the Wild’s general manager who also worked in Pittsburgh, that swayed him.
“When you get calls from Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher . . . these guys were there and knew me,” Sydor stated. “I respect Mike and if I want to become a good coach there’s no better person to learn from.”
So it didn’t take long for Sydor to decide it was time to start a second career. That is something he has given some thought to for a while, perhaps since the lockout season (2004-05) when he spent some time around the Blazers.
“Last season, in the second half,” he said, “I was helping out upstairs and stuff like that. It’s been in the back of my mind and a lot of people have mentioned things.”
He also spent some time chatting with former coaches, like Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella and Rick Wilson.
“I tried to do a lot of research and get some advice,” Sydor said. “I don’t know how many times you get offered an opportunity like this right out of the chute. These opportunities may not come by too often.
“I know my role. Mike knows me. I know him. That’s what makes it a comfortable situation. I’m not going somewhere where I don’t know the person and there’ll be a feeling-out process.”
Sydor said he doesn’t expect the transition from player to coach will be too difficult, at least not the on-ice part.
“That’s going to be easy,” he said. “I know I don’t know everything. I was learning until the day I retired. But it’s going to be the behind-the-scenes stuff that will take some learning and adapting.”
Asked if he had a highlight that stood out from his playing career, Sydor immediately pointed to the two Stanley Cup victories.
But then he added: “I don’t know if you can have just one highlight. The highlight is 18 years in the league . . . in the National Hockey League.”
On Monday, Sydor said, “I told my dad, ‘I think I’m going to retire.’ He said, ‘You know, son, I didn’t think you’d ever make it anyway. So 18 years is good.’
“It’s something to be proud of. Almost 1,300 games . . . I’ve been very fortunate.”
Sydor is the first of the four ex-Blazers who own chunks of the WHL team to retire. Jarome Iginla, 33, is preparing for his 14th season with the Calgary Flames, while Shane Doan, 34, is going into his 15th season with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise, and Boston Bruins forward Mark Recchi, 42, is going into his 21st NHL season.
“Obviously, they’re a lot younger than me,” Sydor said, and then, with a chuckle, he added, “and then you’ve got the Italian Stallion.”