Journeyman netminder Michael Leighton announced his retirement Monday after 18 seasons of professional hockey.
"This is a really hard thing for me to say: I'm done playing because I've done this my whole life," Leighton told The Athletic's Scott Powers. "Since I was four or five years old, I've played hockey. It's been my life. For me to just say I'm done playing is a tough decision. It's just one that has to be made at this time."
Leighton, 38, dressed for 21 different teams throughout his career, spending most of his time in the AHL. Drafted in the sixth round of the 1999 NHL Draft, he played in a total of 126 NHL games (regular season and playoffs) and is best remembered for his role in the Philadelphia Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009-10.
Leighton entered his age-28 season with 69 career games under his belt but had never enjoyed much success. The Flyers claimed him off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes after he began the year with a 4.28 goals-against average and an .848 save percentage.
Leighton became the Flyers' starter, going 16-5-2 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average during the regular season. He parlayed that strong play into a miraculous postseason run, recording a .916 save percentage and a 2.46 goals-against average as the Flyers fell two games short of winning the Stanley Cup against the burgeoning Chicago Blackhawks. He was in goal for Patrick Kane's famous overtime winner in Game 6.
"There's obviously a lot of disappointment still that burns inside of me that wishes I could have won and brought the championship to Philadelphia," Leighton said. "But that whole playoff experience, that whole season, was definitely a positive for me.
"Got a lot of NHL games, playing in the semifinals, getting three shutouts against Montreal in a playoff series, just playing in the Stanley Cup Final. There's a lot of goalies who play 15, 20 years in the NHL and never make it to the Stanley Cup Final. That's still a great accomplishment for me personally. It obviously sucks we didn't win, but still a highlight of my career to play in the playoffs and have a chance to play for the Cup."
Leighton would start just five more NHL games after the Flyers' run, making his final appearance in the league during the 2016-17 season.