By Todd Kortemeier | Sept. 24, 2018, 4:53 p.m. (ET)

Brian Gionta warms up before a game at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. 

 

In assembling an Olympic men’s ice hockey roster without National Hockey League players for the first time in 20 years, Team USA officials were eager to have as much veteran leadership as possible.

Enter longtime NHL veteran Brian Gionta, who announced his retirement from hockey on Monday.

Gionta stepped up to fill the captain’s role on Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, eschewing NHL contract offers specifically for the chance at a spot on the Olympic team. The man who captained the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres in a 16-year NHL career wore the “C” for the last time in PyeongChang.

“I'm announcing my retirement today,” Gionta said at a Sabres press conference. “Looking forward to spending more time with my family and also playing a small part with the organization. Looking forward to that next step of my career.”

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That next step for now is a player development role with the Sabres, for whom he played 230 career games. The Rochester, New York, native began his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, winning a Stanley Cup in 2003, before moving on to the Canadiens and then the Sabres. Following his experience in PyeongChang, Gionta signed a deal for the remainder of the 2017-18 season with the Boston Bruins.

Gionta was the only American with previous Olympic experience on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that made it to the quarterfinals before falling to the Czech Republic. Gionta previously played at the 2006 Games in Torino, and was a veteran of three world championship and two world junior championship tournaments. 

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.