With tears welling in his eyes, and his family with him in the locker room, Jochen Hecht said goodbye to the NHL.
The long-tenured Sabres winger ends his NHL career with 833 games played, 186 goals and 277 assists totaling 463 points, a +100 rating, and 22 game winners. Hecht has been a member of the Sabres since the 2002-03 season, but has also put in plenty of time playing for his home country of Germany, where he will continue both his hockey and personal lives.
"Over the last few weeks we as a family decided to go back and start our life in Germany. That's where we want to go back to. It's best for the kids," said Hecht in the locker room after the game. He was quick to profess his love for the city he's played in for the past 10 years, calling Buffalo a "second home."
Hecht was re-signed by the Sabres in the offseason as a depth forward, but ended up playing more than anyone expected. He was the Sabres do-it-all man, playing in all positions and in all situations, and Ron Rolston praised him after the game, saying, "He's just a classy person overall. He's a true professional, and a great teammate."
The Sabres gave Hecht a ceremonial shootout attempt as the third shooter, and in a move that could not be a more fitting end of his time in Buffalo, he missed on a bad angle backhand.
For all the jokes we've made about his poor shot choices, Hecht has been one of the Sabres most reliable and consistent performers for the past decade. Though his play declined in the last few years, his departure, along with Lindy Ruff and Jason Pominville, is signalling a major change in the organization, and that's before we even mention two other big names that might be gone this summer.
Farewell, Jochen Hecht. We'll miss your backhands, your easily pun-able name, and seeing the Sabres lead the league in Germans. Tonight, we'll raise a glass in your honor. Prost.