By Andrew Miller
Of The Post and Courier Staff
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – After 17 seasons in professional hockey, including the last two with the South Carolina Stingrays, Ed Courtenay has decided it’s time to get a real job.
Courtenay, 37, announced his retirement from the sport Tuesday morning after almost two decades in professional hockey. Stingrays center Mike Jickling also announced his retirement from the sport after seven seasons in the game.
“I think if you’ve played as long as I have, you realize that this day is inevitable,” Courtenay said. “You can’t play forever and I wanted to leave the game on my own terms and not have someone kick me out of the door. I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve seen a lot of the country, but I’ve got a family now, and I don’t think it’s fair to travel so much. I think it was the right time to hang ’em up.”
Courtenay played just three seasons for the Stingrays, but finished his career among the franchise’s all-time leading scorers. In 199 games in a Stingrays uniform, Courtenay recorded 235 points (4th) on 107 goals (4th) and 128 assists (5th).
“Ed Courtenay sees the ice as well as any player I’ve ever played with or coached at any level,” said South Carolina Stingrays coach Jason Fitzsimmons. “He’s the best passer I’ve seen at any level and he probably knows the game as well as any player I’ve been around.
“He wasn’t always the best skater on the ice, but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and that’s because of his knowledge of the game. You could write a book about Ed’s career. I tried to talk him out of retirement, but he was set on leaving the game.”
Courtenay’s best season with the Stingrays came during the 1996-97 season when he set a single-season franchise mark with 110 points and 54 goals.
“The league was a little bit different back then,” Courtenay said. “There wasn’t as much talent across the league, and the game was a little more wide open.”
In 62 games this past season, Courtenay finished with 59 points on 24 goals and 35 assists.
“I think there’s still some hockey left in Ed,” Fitzsimmons said. “He proved at the age of 37 that he can still be a dominant force in this league.”
Courtenay played in 44 games in the National Hockey League and played nine seasons in the International Hockey League. The Montreal native finished with seven goals and 20 assists during his brief NHL career.
“The best memory I’ve got from professional hockey was my first NHL goal,” Courtenay said. “It came against Patrick Roy in Montreal and being from Montreal that’s what made it so special.”
Meanwhile, Jickling, who played the last three seasons with the Stingrays, finished with 116 points on 39 goals and 77 assists. This past season, he fought through several injuries and was limited to just 47 games.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to go out,” Jickling said. “It was a tough decision to stop playing, but I think my body was trying to tell me something this past season. All the injuries took most of the fun out of the game.”
Jickling had his best season in a Stingrays uniform three years ago when was among the team leaders with 26 goals.
“Mike Jickling was a true professional in every sense of the word,” Fitzsimmons said. “He came to work every day he was at the rink.”
Jickling has joined Community Home Mortgage as a loan officer, while Courtenay is still trying to figure out what he’ll do with the rest of his life.
“I want to bring the same kind of work ethic to the mortgage business that I brought to the rink every day,” Jickling said.
Courtenay said he’d like to stay connected to the game he has played almost his entire life.
“I’d like to get into coaching, but I’d also like to stay in the area and they’ve already got two great coaches here,” Courtenay said. “I’ve thought about maybe having a hockey school or giving private lessons that work more on skill of the game like passing and shooting, than skating.”