Bickell’s big decision came no more than a few hours after his Canes teammates and coaches surprised him at a Walk MS benefit in Raleigh, North Carolina, sporting Bickell’s No. 29 and T-shirts reading “Bickell Brave.”
It was a touching moment and a fitting lead-in to Bickell’s announcement about hanging up the skates. That is according to both Bickell himself and the forward’s teammates, who were said to have learned about the impending retirement on Thursday.
“It kind of threw a little curveball in my career,” Bickell said, per the Hurricanes website. “You can kind of see the support that I’ve had from the people around. We’re a hockey community. MS is everywhere. You can see the support here.”
“He’s a man’s man, and he’s a pro’s pro, and he’s unbelievably brave,” Peters said.
Multiple sclerosis, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is an “unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain.” And its effects have admittedly taken a toll on Bickell, who said the fatigue of the condition, which began hindering his play in the 2015 postseason, helped guide him toward a departure from the game.
The announcement, which only bodes as the beginning of what the NHL community promises to be an ongoing walk of support for Bickell, was not the only headlining moment of the veteran’s final weekend with Carolina, either.
Saturday was also when the Hurricanes bestowed the Steve Chiasson Award upon their trade acquisition-turned-off-field-fighter. The honor, issued annually after votes from teammates, named Bickell the Cane who “best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.”
Bickell’s career -- and the storied battle he fought to close it as a member of the Hurricanes -- will officially end with a scheduled start against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, when he’s slated to take on net-front power-play duties as was also the plan for Saturday night’s clash with the St. Louis Blues.
“Hopefully, we can fill the net up for the last home game for the fans,” Bickell said, according to the NHL website. “Hopefully I can get one for myself. You never know when the last one is. It would be special.”