Former Washington Capitals forward and captain of the Hershey Bears Garrett Mitchell has retired from professional hockey after a career that spanned 14 seasons in the AHL, ECHL, NHL, and a top Slovakian league.
The 31-year-old winger was selected by the Capitals in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Draft from the WHL’s Regina Pats. The Regina native spent parts of the first nine seasons of his pro tenure in the Caps’ organization, primarily with Hershey in the AHL.
Mitchell revealed the retirement news on his X/Twitter account on Thursday.
It’s difficult to put in to words the impact hockey has had on my life. As I sit here today, preparing to announce my retirement, I reflect on the past 12 years. A young kid from Regina, Saskatchewan who loved the game of hockey and dreamt about one day playing in the NHL to now, starting a new chapter in my life. My career started off like any other kid…minor league hockey in my hometown and quickly escalated after being drafted to the WHL. Fortunately, I was drafted to my hometown team, the Regina Pats and was able to live at home while I played for the next 4 years. In 2009 I was drafted by the Washington Capitals. I ended up playing the better part of my career for the Hershey Bears ultimately making Hershey ‘home’ to my family and I. Playing for 7 years in chocolate town was a time in our lives that we well cherish forever. In April of 2017 not only was my youngest daughter born, but I fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing in the NHL. My wife, our oldest daughter Lyla, 9-day old Lakelyn, my parents and Mother-in-law were all there for it. Stepping out on to the ice as a Washington Capital with players that I idolized was a moment I will never forget. Over the next 5 years I found myself playing overseas in Slovakia, back in Pennsylvania for the Reading Royals and finally landed in Rockford, IL for my last 4 years. It’s been a wild ride!
To my former teammates, it’s been a pleasure to have played with you. I hope that you were able to take something from me because I know I’ve learned a lot from you. To the guys I played against, I promise I’m a way better guy off the ice than I am on! To my coaches, trainers and staff, I can’t thank you enough for everything. You were a huge part in making me the person I am today. Talita, Lyla and Lakelyn…thank you for being my biggest fans. You have sacrificed so much and supported me through the many highs, lows and uncertainties of this lifestyle. I couldn’t have done it without you! Lastly, to my parents & sister…a huge part of why I had such a successful career. Your support and endless travels for my hockey over the years has gotten me to where I am. I can’t thank you enough for believing in me!
His announcement post feature photos of him donning the ‘C’ for both Hershey and the Rockford IceHogs.
— Garrett Mitchell (@Mitchy1_0) August 31, 2023
Mitchell started his pro career during the 2009-10 season when he got into one game for the Bears in the AHL after his junior campaign in Regina had ended. He would cement a more permanent role in Hershey during the 2011-12 season, notching his first professional goal and getting into 65 total games.
Almost five complete seasons later, Mitchell was finally rewarded with his NHL debut. In the Caps’ 2016-17 regular season finale against the Florida Panthers, Mitchell skated 8:48 of ice time in the 2-0 loss.
“When Troy [Mann] gave me that news, I just could have started crying,” Mitchell told the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan. “It was awesome.”
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) April 9, 2017
Then Caps head coach Barry Trotz gave Mitchell the start in that game on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom got himself intentionally kicked out of the opening faceoff so Mitchell could take the first draw.
The team also gave Mitchell the normal rookie treatment by having him take the customary solo lap in warmups.
Garrett Mitchell, leading the Caps onto the ice for his NHL debut. His teammates will be along. Eventually. pic.twitter.com/M8a0cOgXdx
— John Walton (@JohnWaltonPxP) April 9, 2017
“We started talking about good organizational people, and Brian MacLellan brought up Mitchell, and people in Hershey, Troy and them, brought up Mitchy,” Trotz said before the game. “We said if we get an opportunity, he’s earned the right to put on a jersey because he’s done a lot of things. As a team, if you’re going to be a good team, it’s not only just the players, the coaches, the trainers, but it’s your farm team. It’s the people in your organization. He’s done a lot for this organization. It’s time he gets paid back.”
After that season, Mitchell signed a one-year deal to play a final year in Hershey before moving abroad to HKM Zvolen in Slovakia. He played 28 games overseas before returning to North America the next year, splitting time between the Reading Royals, Laval Rocket and IceHogs. Mitchell wrapped up his career with the Icehogs, playing for them for three more seasons.
The Bears posted a collage of photos of Mitchell on their Instagram account to celebrate their former captain. “From an 18-year-old black ace to our captain,” Hershey captioned the post. “What a sweet journey it’s been! Congrats Garrett Mitchell on an amazing career. We wish you nothing but the best in retirement!”
Congrats on a tremendous career, Garrett. Enjoy retirement!
Headline photo: Tori Hartman/Hershey Bears
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