Thomas Vanek, the most decorated Austrian hockey player in history, today announced his retirement at age 36 after not being claimed during the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, ending his 15 year professional career with stops in eight cities.
The University of Minnesota prospect joined the NHL following the 2004-05 lockout, the 5th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2003. Vanek spent his first nine pro seasons with the Sabres, serving as co-captain in his final season. Vanek’s post-Buffalo career saw him serve as a utility journeyman, often a trade deadline target for playoff teams; he played for seven teams in his final six seasons, with stops in New York, Montréal, Minnesota, Detroit, Florida, Vancouver and Columbus, last playing for Detroit in 2019. Vanek finished his diverse NHL career with 789 points in 1029 games, being named an NHL All Star in 2009, and far and away the highest scoring Austrian in history.
Vanek first joined the national junior team in Division I in 2002, helping promote Austria to the Top Dvision in 2004, his third and final junior tournament. Vanek joined the senior national team at the 2004 World Championship, playing in two more Top Division tournaments (2009, 2013), as well as Division I in 2008. Vanek also played at the 2006 Olympic Qualification tournament, captained Team Austria at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and served as the only Austrian on the mixed “Team Europe” squad that shocked the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and finished second to Canada.
While Austria has not won the IHLC since 1931, holding one of the longest active droughts in history, Vanek competed for the IHLC on four occasions, but due to his immense impact on Austrian hockey we have nevertheless chosen to feature his retirement despite the Eagles’ long title drought. We wish Thomas and his family the very best for his retirement and the things to come!