One of the most successful leaders in minor league hockey history is beginning the next phase of his career. Komets center Colin Chaulk announced his retirement this morning, ending a 15-year professional career.
Chaulk, 36, has had problems with his brachial plexus, a network of nerves through his neck. The problem is affecting his left arm, which he estimates is at 50 percent strength because the muscle is atrophying.
``I knew I was done even when I was playing,'' Chaulk said. ``I should not have been playing, really. If this wasn't getting any better, then I couldn't play. There's no way on earth I could play hockey with this anymore.''
Because the condition affects the phrenic nerve, it also gives him trouble breathing. Whenever Chaulk takes a deep breath, he experiences pain on his right side. He can hold a stick in his right hand to practice or coach, but playing in a game, he's robbed of his precision, power and endurance.
``You're tired all the time,'' he said. ``I have to pause more when I talk, I have to rest more when I read to my kids. I feel that I'm bearing down right now between breaths to speak.''
Doctors have told him it could take up to two years for the nerves to regenerate, Chaulk said, but they are not positive on that timetable.
Chaulk recently finished his 10th season in Fort Wayne and 15th season as a pro with 22 points in 28 games. He's missed 44 games this year with injuries, including a foot infection that led to the current nerve problems. He felt well enough to play six games in March but then was knocked out with a groin strain.
He finishes in Fort Wayne with 578 games, 184 goals and 684 points. He's third behind Len Thornson and Eddie Long on the Komets' franchise list for career points, and seventh in games played. Chaulk recently became the 70th player to score 1,000 points in his minor league career.
More importantly, he's been the key leader on five Fort Wayne title teams, one of the first players to receive the cup in 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 to begin the celebrations. No Komets and very few minor league players have ever won so much.
``It was a great time here in Fort Wayne and I hope it continues,'' Chaulk said. ``The fans have been amazing, and I've had amazing linemates and teammates. They had to put the puck in the net for me, and I was thankful for that.''