Just a San Jose Shark for three seasons, Joel Ward hopes to have a lasting impact in the Bay Area. The 11-year NHL veteran, known for being clutch in the playoffs, retired today after 726 games, 133 goals, and 304 points.
Ward took the rare route from the Ontario Hockey League with Owen Sound to a brief stint with the West Coast Hockey League’s Long Beach Ice Dogs. He returned to the Canadian college ranks with the University of Prince Edward Island and received a degree in Sociology. Wardo also played 3 years with the AHL’s Houston Aeros and got called up for 11 games with the Minnesota Wild.
Joel would go on to Nashville where his 40 goals and tough play would garner attention. In 2011, he caught the eyes of the Washington Capitals in free agency. In D.C., he shocked the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Quarterfinals with an overtime winner.
San Jose Sharks
In 2015, Team Teal signed Ward to a three year deal, bringing Ward’s style and much needed toughness and goal scoring prowess to Sharks Territory. His impact was plentiful in his first year, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 7 goals in 24 playoff games is pretty good, but those goals were quite impactful for the Sharks.
In Game 1 of the second round, Ward assisted on the tying goal, then deked around former teammate Pekke Rinne to get the go ahead goal.
Ward would make Rinne and Predators defenseman Roman Josi look silly en-route to beating Nashville in Game 7.
In the clinching game of the Western Conference Final, Ward scored twice, including the series winning goal. Some Sharks fans argue this is one of, if not, the greatest goal in franchise history.
While his linemate, Joonas Donskoi, would get the game winner in overtime, “Wardo” would force overtime in Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final with a game tying bomb in the third period.
Ward wasn’t just great on the ice, but off as well. Coming from several current and former Sharks employees, they shared that Joel would buy lunch for the staff. “Every offseason Ward was on the Sharks, he bought all of the Sharks off ice staff lunch. No cameras or press or anything. Just did it to be a kind person” said a former Sharks employee.
The #SJSharks staff is hungry for more hockey. Huge thanks to @JRandalWard42 for sending us the taco truck. We’re still hungry for more hockey but we can’t eat any more food #Grateful pic.twitter.com/YOhulpb3Cw
— Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) May 3, 2018
And that leads us to today. Ward suggested working in hockey in some capacity, perhaps with the Sharks. “There’s been on and off chats with the Sharks and it would be great to stay here,” Ward stated via conference call.
Ward said in the past that he’d like to coach someday. With an underdog story, a list of stops made along the way, and a variety of systems played, Ward feels he has a lot of experience/knowledge to share. Ward also stated that he “definitely wants to be prevalent in the communities” with the Hockey is for Everyone campaign, sharing both his journey and being a player who’s dealt with racist vitriol.
Former teammates are sharing gratitude on social media, paying tribute to a solid career from a well-rounded gentleman.
Unbelievable player and person! Still try and implement your can’t change it now advice and stop stressing! special family and a huge congrats to a great career bud! One of the best teammates you could hope for and brought everyone young/ old/ married/ single together #specialguy https://t.co/18UVyyFzx1
— Brent Burns (@Burnzie88) April 27, 2020
One the best guys I’ve ever been around, especially as a young guy coming into the league. Nothing was ever given to wardo something I’ve always admired. A true pro and such a joy to be around, enjoy retirement big fella! https://t.co/Zm7dmSLBTK
— Dylan DeMelo (@ddems2) April 27, 2020
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) April 27, 2020
Best wishes to Joel Ward and his family. We hope to have you in Teal Town in some capacity. All the best in retirement!