Often the retirement of journeymen players goes unnoticed. That was not the case for Sean O'Donnell.
"O.D." truly was one of hockey's good guys. Every one of his many teammates would vouch for that. The media members always enjoyed his openness, honest and professionalism. Casual fans may not have even noticed Sean O'Donnell's work on the ice, which for a defensive defenseman is a huge compliment.
O'Donnell was a throw-back to a different era. There was a time when most defensemen played exactly like O'Donnell. Tough and physical. Defense first. Offense, more or less, left to others. He was always in good position, hit hard, blocked shots and, though he was never a great fighter, he always and fearlessly answered the bell. Sean O'Donnell was the ultimate team player.
In his own era Sean O'Donnell was unheralded and vastly underrated. In early eras he could have been a star. He worked tirelessly to improve his skating and mobility so that he could be the ideal #4 defenseman on a top team who spent a lot of time on the penalty kill unit.
O'Donnell skated in 1,224 regular-season NHL games for the Kings, Wild, Devils, Bruins, Coyotes, Ducks, Flyers and Blackhawks. He scored 31 goals, assisted on 198 and piled up 1,809 penalty minutes. He also played 106 playoff games and won a Stanley Cup with the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.
One of my favorite Sean O'Donnell stories came from his days in Anaheim. Teammate and all star defenseman Chris Pronger was, as always, swarmed by the media when O'Donnell interrupted the interview to jokingly tell him to talk about how much he enjoyed playing with his partner.
Pronger obviously did. It was at Pronger's recommendation that his new team, the Flyers, acquired O'Donnell late in his career. Larry Robinson also deliberately sought out O'Donnell's services when he was coaching in New Jersey. Rob Blake, Mattias Norstrom and Drew Doughty are among the many Kings' defensemen who raved about playing with O'Donnell.