I was more excited than I was nervous.

It was my first National Hockey League Game, Oct. 7, 1995, in Winnipeg with the Jets. We were playing the Dallas Stars, and I couldn’t wait to walk onto the ice with my teammates – NHL teammates.

One of my favorite parts of playing hockey is hearing the national anthems while standing on the blue line quietly as I think about the upcoming game, pray and say thanks. I’ll never forget this particular ritual, gazing up at the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and realizing, “I’m an NHLer.”

We won the game 7-5, and it felt surreal. My dream of playing in the NHL had come true and although I previously thought that would be enough, I couldn’t wait for the next one.

I’m so grateful and thankful to the Winnipeg Jets for drafting me and giving me a chance to play my rookie season and when the team moved to the Valley in 1996, all I wanted to know was if the Coyotes would keep giving me a chance to play.

Against their better judgment, they did and that first game as a Phoenix Coyote was exciting. We played against the San Jose Sharks in downtown Phoenix at America West Arena, and it was so fun. The crowd was right on top of you, and you could feel the emotion and energy in the building.

I could not fathom at the time that I would end up playing in Arizona for the next 21 years, raise a family and call this place home. But that’s exactly what happened.

And that’s why this has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

I’m retiring from the NHL.

My wife, Andrea, and I have prayed about this, and I truly believe this is His timing. I have peace, and I’m so thankful for that.