As the clock ticked down on his NHL career, Patrick Lalime wept.

His eyes started to get watery with eight minutes left in the Buffalo Sabres' 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of a playoff series at the Wells Fargo Center on April 26, 2011. Not dressed that night, he was overcome by emotion in the press box.

Later, after consoling his teammates in the room, the former goalie headed to the bench in the empty arena and cried some more — alone with his thoughts in what was his final act as an active player.

Lalime, 37, didn't have to wipe the tears away because he was sad. The emotion of reaching the end of the long journey got the best of him. The time was right and, most importantly, he left on his own terms.

"I saw it coming. I wasn't playing," said Lalime, now an analyst for RDS. "I had started looking into (retirement) and you get excited about what lays ahead. You think about your family, everything that you've gone through.

"I had prepared myself for it. As soon as the season was over, I knew it. When I sat on that bench in Philly crying, I was just thankful for everything. I left healthy. I had made the call. I had already made calls to try to prepare for what was going to be next for me after playing."

There are three ways an NHL player can retire:

No. 1: On their own terms, perhaps, even at the top of their game.

No. 2: They get told by management and the coaching staff they haven't got what it takes anymore.

No. 3: A career-ending injury such as concussion or a situation that requires surgery.

It's up to Daniel Alfredsson to choose what path he wants to take into his golden years. The 39-year-old Ottawa captain has put off his dilemma on what's next by going home to play for Sweden at the world championship.