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Alex Kovalev officially retires after 24 years playing pro hockey

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Alex Kovalev had some of his best years in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)
Alex Kovalev had some of his best years in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)

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Alex Kovalev hasn't played an NHL game in close to two years but all along he remained an active player, spending last season in the Swiss second league. He remains a player no more; on Thursday he announced his retirement from the game for good.

"I'd have loved to play until I'm 50 but the injuries from the last few seasons don't let me continue my career," Kovalev said (via IIHF.com). "It's a hard decision for me but it is what it is. It was my last season."

The last of many, many seasons and some of them rather terrific. A magician with the puck, Kovalev played 1,316 games in his NHL career and amassed 430 goals, 599 assists while playing for the Rangers, Penguins, Canadiens, Senators and a handful of games with the Panthers.

The Soviet/Russian national was drafted by the Rangers all the way back in 1991, their first-round pick at No. 15, the first Russian player to be picked in the first round of an NHL draft. He was a big part of the Rangers' Stanley Cup run in 1993-94, his second season in the NHL. After 56 points in the regular season, Kovalev had 21 points in 23 playoff games to help lead New York.

His best seasons came with Pittsburgh in the late 90s/early 2000s. He hit his peak at 27 when he finished with 44 goals and 51 assists in 2000-01 for the Pengiuns, making one of three All-Star Games of his career that season.

Kovalev ends his career with just the one Stanley Cup very early in his career but he also is the recipient of Olympic gold, having won with the Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. He represented Russia at the 2002 and 2006 Games as well, winning bronze in Salt Lake City.

Though he remained active, Kovalev had retired from the NHL after his brief stint in Florida (just 14 games), meaning he's eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame beginning next year.

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