After a year away from the game following his fifth concussion while with the Minnesota Wild, American defenseman Keith Ballard today announced his retirement from pro hockey after a ten-year pro career.
Ballard, a standout with the University of Minnesota, broke into the league as a draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, being traded to Colorado before ever suiting up in Buffalo. Ballard was again traded before his first game to the Phoenix Coyotes, where he spent his first three seasons in the desert. Ballard would hold another three-year stint with Vancouver, along with two-year stopovers in Florida and Minnesota. Known as a solid-two way defenseman, he was also defined by his strong physical play, which would ultimately spell his downfall due to his number of head injuries.
Internationally, Ballard proved himself worthy of the NHL as a college player among the pros at the 2004 World Championships, helping the Americans win a bronze medal over Slovakia. Ballard would suit up again for Team USA at the Worlds in 2007, 2008 and 2009, playing in 29 total games with 9 points and 36 penalty minutes for the senior team.
Ballard first won the IHLC in 2004, with a shootout win over the host Czechs at the World Championships. Ballard would hold the title twice more in his career, with both instances coming in 2007, with Worlds victories over Sweden and Germany. We wish Keith and his family the very best for his retirement and the things to come!