Report: Kevin Klein to Valhalla

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
Phil Kocher
@ me

Just before the evening rush hour commute yesterday, Larry Brooks gave the hockey world—specifically Rangers fans—quite the story to digest on the ride home.According to the report, Kevin Klein, 32, is contemplating retirement from the NHL.

Sources report Klein, who was a healthy scratch for all but one playoff game following a regular season in which persistent lower back issues limited him to 60 games, is leaning toward leaving the NHL and continuing his career in Europe.

Individuals with knowledge of the situation stressed that a final decision has not been made even as the 32-year-old righty defenseman held a going-away party over the weekend.

Klein, who has been working out at the Blueshirts’ practice facility, has one year at $2.75 million remaining on his contract with an accompanying $2.9 million cap hit. If he does indeed retire from the NHL, the Rangers would thus gain an additional $2.9 million of 2017-18 space.

Klein, who has been working out at the Blueshirts’ practice facility, has one year at $2.75 million remaining on his contract with an accompanying $2.9 million cap hit. If he does indeed retire from the NHL, the Rangers would thus gain an additional $2.9 million of 2017-18 space.

While Klein apparently hasn’t yet made a final decision on the matter, an essentially forced retirement—albeit one accompanied by a year or two in Europe—would be an unceremonious end for the rugged defenseman.

Originally acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Michael Del Zotto, Klein’s first two seasons with the Rangers were surprisingly valuable. While Del Zotto’s stock had fallen at the time of the deal, Klein was a relative unknown, at least to Eastern Conference fans. However, it didn’t take long for him to carve out a role as a physical presence who would provide an unexpected amount of offense through his first two years. Though he spent much of this past season nursing an incessant back injury that limited his campaign to just 60 games, he scored 18 goals across back-to-back 26-point seasons in his first 134 games on Broadway. That production and his performance impact, unfortunately, fell precipitously this past year, and as a result, he was limited to just one playoff appearance through both rounds the Rangers appeared in this Spring. But given how useful he was as a player for two of his three years in New York, surely he’s worthy of a righteous Viking funeral.

Beyond the points and the boon his goal-scoring brought to a mostly immobile back end, Klein was a reliable physical presence who had no fear of dropping his gloves in defense of a teammate, nor paying a price to remain strong on the puck at either end of the ice. He was one of only a handful of Rangers players who’s physicality didn’t come at the direct expense of playing competent hockey.

You’ll find no greater tale of his warrior nature as a Ranger than the night in which he had a part of his ear detached only for it to be re-attached before he returned to the game to score the game-winning goal.

In a December match against the much-hated Metropolitan division rival Pittsburgh Penguins, Klein was the recipient of a high-stick, courtesy of Zach Sill, that tore a sizable portion off the top of his left ear.

Klein would skate off for repairs, leaving the ice with blood streaming from the left side of his head. Thirteen stitches later, with a plastic guard now covering the wound, Klein would return to the game and begin taking regular shifts again. Up 3-1, the Rangers would give up two third period goals that would send the game to overtime where Klein would cap the incredible night by scoring the game-winning goal with just over a minute left in the tilt.

In their post-game ceremony designed to recognize outstanding players, Klein, naturally, was awarded the Broadway hat by his teammates and was interviewed by the MSG crew. That interview has gifted us this fantastic post-battle imagery, which thanks to the beauty of the internet, will ride eternal, shining and chrom—err, well, bloody.

The NHL is still very much in the process of modernizing, exiting an era often highlighted by line brawls and fights. That process undoubtedly points to an inevitable event horizon where perhaps one day we’ll only know a league in which fights simply do not occur. Safety concerns in light of concussion protocol and the potentially disastrous effects of diseases like Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) effectively demand it, but until that day, fans like me will always appreciate the NHL’s great warriors who are more than willing to sacrifice their own well-being in the name of team success, honor, and camaraderie.

In the meantime, if Klein is intent on continuing his career in Europe, might we suggest Ireland? It’s where Vikings is filmed, and let’s be honest—we all know he’s due for a post-hockey career cameo.


Additionally, with Klein’s Rangers death, and in sacrificing another defenseman, Dan Girardi, to the buyout Gods, so might the Rangers defense be reborn.

It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast. Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns. This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death! I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear.

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