Adam Pardy could hear the murmurs, snickers from critics and skeptics puzzled as to why on earth a veteran of 350 National Hockey League games over nine years would choose to go back to the ECHL.
Truth is, maybe, deep down they were questions Pardy was even asking of himself.
“People had said to me, ‘You had a good career in the NHL, and now, you’re kind of …’”
Voices tailed off. Eyes avoided contact. He knew what was coming next.
“They were saying different things,” he recalled. “Like maybe I’m losing a little bit of dignity or lowering my standards or whatever.
“But you know what?” he said with resolve, “I didn’t care what they said. Still don’t.”
Pardy, the big defenceman from Bonavista, played his last game of competitive hockey Tuesday night, and he went out on his own terms.
Choosing to come home for his swan song, Pardy went out a winner, helping the Newfoundland Growlers win their first championship in their first year with their 4-3 win over the pesky Toledo Walleye and the ECHL title on home ice.
The Kelly Cup win will go down in the history books as this city and province’s first professional championship.
Afterwards, standing near centre ice as teammates and their friends and family celebrated in unison, with most of the huge crown of 6,329 out the door and into the balmy June night, Adam Pardy officially called it quits on a darn fine playing career.
Father Time has finally caught up to him. He always does, even to the best of them.
“It means everything to wrap things up at home,” said the 35-year-old rearguard, who played in six NHL cities – Calgary, Dallas, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Nashville. “My whole career, I shot for a Stanley Cup, but it’s hard to win a Cup.
“But I loved playing hockey. I came here because I’ve always loved Newfoundland. And I love this feeling.
“We had a new team, and I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to stay somewhat involved in hockey, and with Zach (O’Brien) and Marcus (Power) and James (Melindy), I knew these guys, and Clowie (Ryane Clowe) being the coach, I said what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.”
But the deciding factor, he says, came down to a young child, his 10-year-old nephew, Cameron, with whom he is very close.
The boy had seen Pardy play before, in the Big Show. His uncle had taken him into NHL dressing rooms.
And his uncle wanted young Cameron to see him play at home.
“He’s going to remember this for a long time,” Pardy said. “To me, that was the deciding factor to play here, for him to see me play and be part of it.
“It’s a pretty cool experience and hopefully he takes that forward for the rest of his life.”
Still, however, it was a bit of a trying season for Pardy, who, at the height of his career, was a big, steady no-nonsense defenceman, good for 12-15 minutes of work per night (his NHL career closed out with five goals, 50 assists and 276 minutes in penalties).
"I loved playing hockey. I came here because I’ve always loved Newfoundland. And I love this feeling." — Adam Pardy
He missed the first 25 games of the Growlers’ season, recovering from recurring concussion symptoms, the results of which were from a concussion suffered last season in Sweden.
When he did get into the lineup, Pardy was seen as a Steady Eddie, a veteran presence on a youthful squad.
“I think guys really bought into what I was trying to teach them,” he said, “about playing the game the right way, and how to beat teams.
“Sometimes you beat teams with speed, sometimes you beat them with smarts, sometimes you just have to out-work them.
“Early on we knew there was something special with this group. It was just a matter of executing and sticking together. I’ve never seen a team come together quite like we did, to be honest, and in the end we got it done, and it’s a good feeling.
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy right now.”