T. LOUIS (AP) – St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis retired after a 23-year career on Friday, citing the NHL lockout last season and not an eye injury that forced him to miss virtually all the 2003-04 season.

“My health is good and my will is strong,” MacInnis said at a news conference, his voice breaking several times. “But today it is time to count my blessings.

“This game has given me everything I’ve got today. It’s time to unlace my skates and give thanks.”

The 42-year-old MacInnis, known for his 100 mph slap shot, will remain in the organization in an operations and marketing capacity. MacInnis won his only Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and spent his last 10 seasons with the Blues.

“I was kind of hoping this day wouldn’t happen ever,” general manager Larry Pleau said. “When you have a player like this, you never want him to retire.

“He’s going to stay with the organization for a long time.”

MacInnis was the second perennial All-Star defenseman to call it a career this week, his announcement following that of the Devils’ Scott Stevens by three days. He hasn’t played since October 2003, when he sustained a detached retina in an early-season game. The injury was to the same eye in which he was hit by a high stick in January 2001.

It was all the time off his ice, and not concerns about his vision, that persuaded MacInnis to retire.

“I just felt that after not playing competitively for two years that I could not reach that level of play again,” MacInnis said. “It was strictly time.”

MacInnis won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 1999 and led defensemen in scoring in 2002-03 with 68 points. He also won a gold medal with Canada’s Olympic team in 2002, and in 1,416 career games totaled 340 goals and 934 assists while playing in 13 All-Star games.

MacInnis was a first-round pick of the Flames in 1981 and is the third-leading career scorer among defensemen, trailing only Ray Borque (1,579) and Paul Coffey (1,531). And he won seven hardest-shot competitions at the All-Star Game.

With the Blues, he holds records for defensemen scoring with 127 goals, 325 assists and 452 points in 613 games.

His biggest regret is failing to win a Stanley Cup with the Blues.

“I can’t tell you how many times I visualized and daydreamed parading the Stanley Cup down Market Street,” MacInnis said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen but there’s better days ahead and I’m sure someday it’ll happen.”

MacInnis said he could serve the organization in a scouting or player development capacity. He doesn’t want to coach right away, unless it’s with his children.

“I understand the commitment that these coaches put in,” MacInnis said. “They spend more time at the rink or the ballfield or the football field than a player will. With my four young children at this time I just could not make the commitment.”

AP-ES-09-09-05 1811EDT

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