Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik met with the media Tuesday afternoon after the team announced his retirement in the morning. Orpik got emotional several times during the interview when describing how much pain he was in after having arthroscopic knee surgery on November 20.
“I guess it doesn’t matter (if I’m honest) at this point,” Orpik said. “I’d use the elevator at Verizon to go up and down because I couldn’t go up and down the stairs. When I couldn’t do that, it was probably time to stop playing hockey. It was at a point where I could play for two and a half hours and pay for it afterward and try to do it all over again. The trainers helped me out a lot here this year and I almost felt guilty because they’ve got 23, 24 guys to take care of and I was taking up so much of their time.”
Despite Orpik’s struggles, head coach Todd Reirden played the veteran defenseman in virtually every game down the stretch.
“He’s a professional in every meaning of the word,” Reirden said. “That just is another part of the lore of who and what Brooks Orpik is and will continue to be in whatever he decides to do with his life. That was a difficult situation for him to battle through with his knee. It was something he didn’t complain about, he didn’t talk a lot about it. If it was going to affect his ability to play the game we would have made a different decision. He did a lot of good things for our team still. I thought he played well in the playoffs. Sometimes the body just gets to a point where you can’t do it anymore without causing yourself some real permanent damage down the road. The Capitals are so fortunate to have had this guy come here and was a major factor in us winning the Stanley Cup.”
Orpik said he made the decision early in the season. ‘I didn’t want to play through the pain’ any more, he said. Orpik also cited wanting to spend more time with his family, in particular, his two daughters Harlow and Brooklyn.
Brooks Orpik talks with the media after announcing his retirement from the National Hockey League. pic.twitter.com/C0WsjTROUE
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 25, 2019
The full transcription of Orpik’s interview with the press is below. Questions have been edited for clarity.
You said you would wait until August to make your decision on retirement. When did it change?
Brooks Orpik: “Well it actually didn’t change much. I just wasn’t very honest with you when I said that. I knew a long time ago to be honest with you for a couple of different reasons. I think probably [after I had surgery] it was pretty evident I wasn’t going to play after this. Nothing’s really changed the last few weeks, it was just finding a time that was appropriate to announce it.”
Did you discuss it with your family what was their reaction?
Brooks Orpik: “They were well in the loop during the year. That was part of the reason because I would leave the rink everyday and half the time I was at home, I was doing treatment on my knee and then I had my kids pulling me to do other stuff that I couldn’t do.
“That and just [tears up] I didn’t want to play through the pain that I played through last year again so it was a pretty easy decision to be honest with you. I didn’t struggle with it much.”
What’s today been like? I’m sure a lot of people have reached out.
Brooks Orpik: “I haven’t really looked at my phone, to be honest. I was kind of watching these guys all day and sitting in on their meetings. Probably take care of that later on.”
Are you going to stay with the team?
Brooks Orpik: “I just flew down here Sunday night and I’m flying back to Boston tomorrow. I don’t know. We’ll figure that out sometime. Hopefully soon.”
What do you want your legacy to be here?
Brooks Orpik: “I guess you create your own legacy but I’d rather someone else talk about it than me. I don’t know, I can tell you what my goal was when I came here. It was to help the group win a Stanley Cup and that was accomplished. I don’t really have any regrets. I had a great time here – the five years I was here. My family included. I remember coming into free agency in 2014, I think I was looking for a three-year contract and got a five-year contract. I was just hoping to get through the five years so we did that. So I was happy with it.”
What’s the next chapter in your life going to be?
Brooks Orpik: “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, yeah. I’ve had a lot of people reach out and offer to give me opportunities. Not really jobs but kind of help me decide what I might want to try. There’ll be those opportunities, but like I said, I’m not in any rush.”
You seem to be a natural to coach. Are you interested in doing that?
Brooks Orpik: “Not right now. With coaching it’s the exact same schedule plus more hours so that’s something that’s important to me right now. I’ve got two young girls that I think I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff over the years so moving forward, something that allows me to travel less and be around them more.”
Were you in pain the whole season with the knee?
Brooks Orpik: “I guess it doesn’t matter (if I’m honest) at this point. I’d use the elevator at Verizon to go up and down because I couldn’t go up and down the stairs. When I couldn’t do that, it was probably time to stop playing hockey. It was at a point where I could play for two and a half hours and pay for it afterward and try to do it all over again. The trainers helped me out a lot here this year and I almost felt guilty because they’ve got 23, 24 guys to take care of and I was taking up so much of their time. Serbs and Mike Booi. Definitely wouldn’t of played as much this year if it wasn’t for them.”
What is your message to the kids this week for Development Camp
Brooks Orpik: “Use these [camps] wisely. I got drafted in 2000. They didn’t have Development Camp. They didn’t have Rookie Camp. I was talking to some of them today. My first day as a pro was the first day of main camp. I don’t care how confident you are, you’re pretty nervous. You’re playing with all the big guys. You have the ability to do it, but trying to hit Mario Lemieux on his tape is pretty tough on your first day as a pro. This is a luxury these guys have. There’s a lot of resources. I think to just use it wisely. Everybody always tells you it goes by quick when you’re younger and you kind of laugh that off, but it definitely does.”
Did you accomplish everything you hoped to do in your career?
Brooks Orpik: “Yeah. We were just laughing. I said my goal was just to play one game. I accomplished that. Anything more than that was kind of icing on top of that. I think that’s everybody goal to just make it to the league. Obviously, once you do play that one game, you set other goals. I am pretty lucky to accomplish what I accomplished team-wise.”
Are you still planning on getting your degree?
Brooks Orpik: “I’ve started looking at some of the options there. It’s a little bit easier. It used to be you had to do everything on campus to get your degree there now you can do online classes so it’s a little easier. That’s definitely, definitely in the works.”
You don’t want to go on campus with all the kids?
Brooks Orpik: “Yeah, I don’t know if I’d be blending in at this stage, but some of the classes would be fine. Some of the night school. But yeah I don’t know about the undergrad stuff. That’d be a little different.”
What are you going to miss the most?
Brooks Orpik: “Probably just being around the guys. Everybody misses the game, but you always know that has an expiration date. I think especially here the last four or five years we’ve had a really great group of guys. I’m sure I’ll stay in contact with a lot of them, it won’t be obviously the same when you’re not with them every single day.”
You’ve played with Ovi. You’ve played with Sid. What’s the biggest difference between the two?
Brooks Orpik: “That question again? So many people have asked me that because I’ve played with both guys. Really the only thing is that both are superstars and are both tremendously accomplished. How they go about getting to that stage is honestly and personality wise couldn’t be more opposite to be honest with you. I’ve got great relationships with both guys. That’s the best I can answer that question.”
You’ve played both sides on this rivalry the last decade or two. Is that still going to be a marquee rivalry in this league.
Brooks Orpik: “I think it’s a lot more real now. We’re in the same division now and we played in the playoffs the last three or four years in a row. Before that, I thought before that it was a little fabricated becuase it was Ovi and Sid, and we were in different divisions and we hadn’t played each other in the playoffs for a long time so I didn’t think it was that big of a rivalry before that. Obviously, if you go before that and the Patrick Division, there was a big gap I guess, but It’s definitely reignited now.”
Headline photo: @Capitals
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