Matt Hendricks retires, takes on player development role with Wild

After 11 seasons in the NHL, Matt Hendricks knew his playing career in hockey was probably coming to an end.

Hendricks signed with the Minnesota Wild last July and played in 22 games before being traded to the Winnipeg Jets. Between the two teams, Hendricks played in just 26 games last season and recorded three assists.

He retired from playing on Tuesday, but he still had his skates laced up and was on the ice at TRIA rink on Tuesday. The Wild named Hendricks the assistant director of player development. He'll work directly under Brad Bombardir, and his role is to help prospects get better in hopes of one day realizing their NHL dream.

"I think any time for any player, any athlete, you get to a point in your career where it starts trickling into your mind what's next when this great game comes to an end," Hendricks said. "I wanted to stay in the game that I love so much. The opportunity, talking with Paul (Wild GM Paul Fenton), it came here in Minnesota first. It's very exciting to be able to do this in my home state and close to my family."

That was the biggest key of anything for Hendricks, who just turned 38 last week. He, his wife Kim and their kids, Lennon and Gunnar, live in Deephaven.

The new role lets Hendricks stay in hockey, though he said himself Tuesday he's not sure if he wants to be in coaching or management. He'll also have a chance to stay home and have more family time.

"I think they were really happy, especially the kids. Dad is going to be home more, so that was very important," Hendricks said.

Hendricks was a fifth-round draft choice by Nashville, No. 131 overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He spent four years in the minor leagues after graduating from St. Cloud State and was 27 years old when he played his first NHL game with the Colorado Avalanche.

His 11 seasons included time with the Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Predators, Edmonton Oilers, Wild and Winnipeg Jets. In 607 career games, he recorded 54 goals and 62 assists.

He said Tuesday he would be happy to work for any of the organizations he played for. But Minnesota means a little more. He was a high school star in Blaine and won a state championship in 2000, and played four years at St. Cloud State University. He led the Huskies with 18 goals in the 2002-03 season, his junior year.

"To be in Minnesota is special, I grew up here and I learned to play here. It's a great feeling," Hendricks said.

He also thinks in his player development role, he can be a valuable asset to the young players the Wild bring in. He can relate to the players at Development Camp this week. He did his time in the minor leagues.

Hendricks knows some of the players are rookies just trying to get comfortable on the ice at the professional level. Others have been around and are fighting for an NHL future.

"It wasn't until almost 28 years old before I got my first game. I know what it's like to play in the minor leagues and have the dream, have the aspirations of playing in the NHL," Hendricks said. "I think that story will help these young guys believe in themselves a little bit more, believe that opportunity is still there. You just have to keep pushing and find your niche, find your role and hopefully you get the chance to."