Ed Jovanovski looks to move into mentor role

His NHL career is defined by over 1,000 games played, 500 points, a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and standing as a first-rate teammate. Now, Ed Jovanovski is hoping to give back to the game that gave him so much.

His NHL career is defined by over 1,000 games played, 500 points, a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and standing as a first-rate teammate. Now, Ed Jovanovski is hoping to give back to the game that gave him so much.

For nearly 20 years, he patrolled the blue line at hockey’s highest level as a hard-hitting defender with a heavy shot.

The first overall pick of the Florida Panthers in 1994, Jovanovski’s last NHL season would come in 2013-14, a campaign in which he returned to the ice after hip surgery in January of 2014.

And while he didn’t have the opportunity to end his career on his own terms, the now 40-year-old’s passion for all things hockey hasn’t waned in the slightest since he hung up his skates.

That’s readily apparent throughout the 15 minutes spent on the phone with Jovanovski.

“Every day you’re an NHL player, it’s a blessing,” said the Windsor, Ontario native. “You don’t ever take any of it for granted. Every day in the NHL is a good day.”

It’s what Jovanovski heard the moment he put on the Panthers jersey for his first big-league game.

“Veteran guys like Briand Skrudland and Gord Murphy, they told me to have fun, to enjoy it because it’s going to go by quick,” he recalled. “And they were right about it all. Even when it’s January and February and things aren’t going well, fortunes might change and the next thing you know you’re in the middle of a playoff drive. You’re itching to get out there and compete. I remember all those times and all those conversations I had when I first started out.”

Much of what he heard and much of what he learned because of it comes out when he has similar chats with Florida’s younger players.

He might not be their teammate, but Jovanovski, like he did during his playing days, wants to be there – in whatever way he can – for the Panthers that are just starting out.

Jovanovski is hoping to utilize his NHL experience and mentorship skills with young players to find a career within the game.

“I suppose like everyone that retires from hockey, you want to take that year to spend time with your family and see where the path might take you,” he said.

“I would love to do something in the game, be it grassroots or pro. I feel I have something to offer to the young guys moving forward. I find a lot of fulfillment in that.”

Not that he’s complaining about his post-NHL life.

“My oldest daughter, she’s 18 and she’s heading off to college soon,” noted Jovanovski. “All those times you missed when you were playing - seeing them off to school, picking them up from school, spending time with them before they went to sleep – it’s been great to have time to just be around my family.”

It’s also been personally rewarding to take a trip down memory lane every now and again, to recall a hockey career that delivered World Junior gold (1995), World Cup of Hockey gold (2004), Olympic gold (2002) and a rookie ride to the Stanley Cup final in 1996.

“I suppose when you look back, you can pick out some accomplishments that are very meaningful,” said Jovanovski. “But, I think for me the most important thing that makes me proud is the relationship I had with my teammates and with the fans. I was lucky to play for nearly 20 years. It would be great to say I had another 20 years in the game after I finished playing.”