Toledo Walleye forward Randy Rowe, a future ECHL hall of famer, has decided to hang up his skates after a 12-year career.
Rowe played in 622 ECHL games and finished his iron-man career in a Walleye uniform last season, which was his second stint with Toledo.
Last season, Rowe became just the seventh player in the 25-year history of the ECHL to reach 600 games played. He ranks 14th in league history with 236 goals and is tied for 18th all-time with 521 points.
Rowe, who turned 33 in June, said the physical aspect of the game had taken its toll.
“Over the last few years, the body has been taking a beating,” Rowe said. “I had good weeks and bad weeks this summer with my body. So I decided if I want to live a productive life after hockey and keep active, this is the right thing to do.”
Rowe was honored as a member of the ECHL All-Decade Team in 2010.
He tallied 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) last season in 61 regular-season games, only 19 penalty minutes, and he won the ECHL’s Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to the player who has exhibited the best sportsmanship combined with a high standard of play.
The Burford, Ontario, native played in 723 total games as a pro, including 101 in the American Hockey League.
“I’ve had a lot of good memories and met a lot of people though my career. It’s hard to give it up,” Rowe said.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci, who is a member of the ECHL hall of fame, said he has no doubt Rowe will join him.
“I look forward to the day I get to call Randy about him being inducted into the hall of fame,” Vitucci said. “He’s a great team person. He leads by example and fans saw that this year. He was a tremendous workhorse.”
Vitucci, who first brought Rowe to Toledo in 2010-11, said Rowe got better later in his career.
“In his great career, he had some huge numbers,” Vitucci said. “But he was an even better player later in his career because he did all of the little things. He blocked shots, he got the puck out of the zone. He was fantastic.”
Rowe had 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 65 games for Toledo in 2010-11.
During his career, the 6-foot, 195-pound forward never accumulated more than 38 penalty minutes in a season. He began in 2001-02 with the Peoria Rivermen. He played in the ECHL for Peoria, Johnstown, Charlotte, Trenton, and Toledo.
After his third year, Rowe was either an assistant captain or captain every season. His best year came in 2007-08, when he had 68 points (24 goals, 44 assists) in 58 games for Johnstown.
One of his proudest accomplishments was that he was never traded.
“In 12 years I’ve been called up and down, but I never was traded. I’m proud of other people respecting me," he said.
Rowe — who has settled in Belleville, Ontario, where he played his junior career — said he may enter the coaching ranks. Rowe, who was on injured reserve late last season, helped coach the Walleye on the bench during the playoffs.
He also said he is considering becoming a firefighter or police officer.
“It’s very tough [to retire]. I had a lot of sleepless nights. Hockey becomes your job and your lifestyle,” Rowe said. “I played 17 years if you go back to juniors, so I’ve played with thousands of players from all over North America and the world. I’ll miss listening to the stories.”
But Rowe said he will not miss the long bus trips, especially the three games in three nights on the weekends.
“I won’t miss those seven-hour bus rides to Wheeling and getting beat up on the ice every night,” he said.
Rowe said he will play in a senior league in Ontario that features recently retired NHL and lower level players.
“I would want people to remember me as a hard worker,” Rowe said. “I led by example and put in the second effort. If you don’t have all the talent, you can still have the heart and hard work to do it.”