ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — After almost 900 games and 17 years as a professional hockey player, Amerks defenseman Nathan Paetsch announced his retirement. He played seven seasons in Rochester, beginning his career in red, white, and blue.
The Buffalo Sabres drafted the Saskatchewan native in 2003. Over the course of 258 games as in Rochester, he tallied 100 points on 23 goals and 77 assists. He was named Amerks MVP following the 2005-2006 campaign and earned four AHL Man of the Year honors. Most importantly, Rochester embraced him, and he embraced the city right back.
“It’s meant family, it’s meant home,” Paetsch said in his final press conference. “My wife and I talked years ago like how cool would it be to go through your career and finish in Rochester at home. I was so lucky to be able to do that.”
Hockey fans and Rochesterians alike grew to adore Paetsch over the years due to his philanthropic nature and love for the city.
“I grew up my adult life in this city,” said Paetsch. “To be able to be a part of that community, involved in a community that’s taken me in as their own, it’s been important to give back for what they gave me.”
Paetsch returned to the Amerks in 2017 following a 5-year stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He won two Calder Cups there, which is his biggest regret as a player. One of his favorite career moments, however, came in his final game with Rochester.
“I promised my son I’d do his celebration if I scored, so for that to be my last game and last goal ever and to be able to pass the torch to my son who’s a hockey player now, I feel looking back it was really fitting.”
The longtime blueliner has given back to the local hockey community as well. Paetsch currently coaches his 10-year-old son Kellen and runs defensive clinics, both things he will continue through his retirement. His full-time job with BioSteel Sports Nutrition will not get in the way of his passion for the game and local involvement.
“I loved it, everybody knows I loved it,” said Paetsch. “It’s going to hurt. It was 17 years pro but it was 34 years of my life. I started skating when I was two and I’ve played since I was four. It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s not going to be an easy transition. My passion my love for the game is never going to go away.”
Is professional coaching in his future? It is certainly a possibility. Paetsch is still deeply involved with the AHL’s return to play efforts, which has kept him in touch with the younger guys on the team. He is friends with new assistant coaches Adam Mair and former teammate Mike Weber. He has had conversations with new head coach Seth Appert.
“I want to be a part of the Amerks moving forward,” he said, “whatever capacity that may be.”
Maybe Paetsch will be able to help the Amerks get that Calder Cup after all.