More NHL offseason: Rumors | Top 50 Free Agents | Buyout Tracker | Trades | Transactions
Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the sporting world when he announced his retirement from the NHL on Thursday at the age of 30. At this point, Kovalchuk is still in the prime of his career, but instead he is electing to step away from 12 years and $77 million left on his contract with the New Jersey Devils.
The expectation is Kovalchuk won't be hanging up his skates for good; he'll most likely play in the KHL, but it still made us think about the greatest players to ever retire at the height of their game. Kovalchuk joins a pretty excellent group of atheletes to go out at their best.
Arguably the greatest hockey player to ever lace up his skates, Orr changed the game and the defenseman position throughout his career, but it didn't last all that long. Orr hung up his skates in 1978-79 at the age of 30 after playing just six games that season with the Blackhawks. He finished with 915 points in 657 career games.
The electrifying running back for the Detroit Lions shocked the football world when he announced his retirement at the age of 30 ... and didn't come back. In his final season with the Lions, Sanders rushed for 1,491 yards with four touchdowns, one season after eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark. It didn't stop Sanders from making the NFL Hall of Fame.
Brown is one many consider the greatest running back in NFL history, but like Sanders, he hung up his cleats very early. Brown's last season came at the age of 29 in 1965 after recording 1,544 yards and a league-best 17 touchdowns. In his nine seasons in the NFL, Brown led the league in rushing eight times.
The Dodgers hurler was forced into retirement at the age of 30 because of arthritis. Despite the relatively short career he is still considered one of the best pitchers ever. In his final five seasons he lead the league in ERA. In his final season in 1966 Koufax had a 27-9 record with a 1.73 ERA.
Bo knew both baseball and football for only a brief time. The slugger hung up his baseball cleats at the age of 31 after recording his best season in terms of batting average in his career. He gave football even less time, playing just four seasons with the Raiders before giving up the game at age 28 because of injury.
The safety for the Arizona Cardinals turned down a contract extension from the club to instead enlist in the US Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He served time overseas and was killed in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said the cause of his death was friendly fire. He played just four NFL seasons, leaving at the age of 25.
The golfing legend had a very brief career, retiring from the sport at the age of 28. Still, before giving up the game, Jones completed golf's only grand slam in 1930, when the majors included the US Amateur and the British Amateur.
The greatest player many have ever seen in basketball shocked the sports world when he retired from the game at 30 years old after the death of his father. Jordan went to play baseball but didn't find much success. He did return to the NBA in 1994-95 but his retirement in 1993 was shocking.
The tennis star decided he had enough at the age of 26 despite dominating Wimbledon and the French Open in his short-lived career. He won Wimbledon five straight times and then reached the final in 1981, his last Wimbledon. He also won the last four French Opens he played in and six overall.