We are so close. The return of hockey is drawing near. Soon enough, a sense of normalcy will be upon us fans of the National Hockey League.
However, this has been a wild summer. The unpredictability of hockey, professional sports as a whole, and (quite honestly) everyday life was a complete unknown three months ago. Now, things are certainly looking up. With not much going on recently, the free time will make you reflect on the past.
Recently, NESN aired Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is incredibly tedious to go back and re-watch sporting events; it is much better watching live. But on this night, the TV remained on channel 851 to relive the B’s securing the 2-1 victory in double overtime. Patrice Bergeron had the game winner and Tuukka Rask was ridiculous in net (53 saves).
As the Bruins went on to win the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, there was one element of that team that you could not help but notice: Nathan Horton.
That 2012-13 regular season and postseason was Horton’s last great run as an NHL player. The Welland, Ontario native recorded 13 goals and 22 points in a lockout-shortened season, but he caught fire once the playoffs began. Horton went on to finish the playoff run with seven goals and 19 points, good for second on the team in both categories.
We all forget nowadays because of the star player that David Pastrnak turned out to be, but there was a period of time when the Bruins had a serious problem with the top-line, right wing spot after Horton left the team. It was hard to replace the caliber of player of Horton, as he emerged as an elite goal scorer. After starting his career with the Florida Panthers, he truly thrived and succeeded the most as a Bruin.
So, what ever happened to him?
Horton signed a seven-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets in July of 2013. The free agent deal was worth $37.1 million. He only ended up playing in 36 total games for Columbus before he suffered a degenerative back injury. The surgery to repair his back unofficially ended his career. Although his contract does not end until the conclusion of this current season, he has not officially retired from hockey.
He his now under contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs after a trade from the Blue Jackets. Horton has shown up at the beginning of each season for training camp, failed his physical, and placed on long-term injured reserve. This is most likely done as a gesture of good faith so he can continue to get paid. Horton will retire at the age of 35 once his contract expires.
It is a shame. What happened with his career was incredibly unfortunate. As someone who spoke to him several times off the ice, there is no doubt that he is a genuine guy who cares about his teammates and the sport. It is hard to imagine those two Stanley Cup runs in 2011 and 2013 without including Horton as a key piece in those conversations.