Veteran defensemen Keith Ballard marked the one-year anniversary of his last concussion by officially announcing his retirement from the NHL on Wednesday.
While playing for the Minnesota Wild, Ballard suffered three facial fractures after a horrific collision with forward Matt Martin in a game versus the New York Islanders on Dec. 9, 2014. The 33-year-old admitted to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he occasionally experiences symptoms from that incident, but has turned his focus on returning to college at the University of Minnesota.
“I didn't want to retire at this time, but with the bigger picture in mind, it was a no-brainer,” Ballard told the newspaper. “You look at so many athletes and they struggle for so long and I don't want that to be me. I want to live a healthy life, be there for my wife and kids.”
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Selected with the 11th overall pick of the 2002 draft by the Buffalo Sabres, Ballard collected 38 goals and 137 assists in 604 career contests. He played with the then-Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Wild during his career.