Utica, N.Y. - After 13 seasons and over 800 professional regular season games between the NHL, AHL and Germany's DEL, Comets defenseman Jaime Sifers has officially called it a career.
The 36-year-old blueliner retired from professional hockey, with his last game coming in the form of a 4-3 shootout win for the Comets over the Syracuse Crunch at the Adirondack Bank Center on Sunday.
The game began with a video tribute to both Sifers' time as a Comet and his career as a whole, and it ended with him earning the first star of the game, acknowledging each of his individual teammates with an embrace before leaving the ice.
"The whole thing was absolutely amazing, I didn't imagine or picture anything like that," Sifers said. "To be honest, I was trying to make it through the whole game emotionally and some guys made it tough on me when I got to the rink.
I had a rough morning yesterday, but I was so excited just to be out there with the guys. Having everybody out there during the game on the bench, it was a lot of fun and I'm definitely going to be thinking about that for a long time."
Sifers began his professional career with the Toronto Marlies in the 2005-06 season after spending four seasons playing collegiate hockey at the University of Vermont.
The Stratford, CT native went on to play for the Marlies, Houston Aeros, Chicago Wolves, Springfield Falcons, Lake Erie/Cleveland Monsters, and Comets during his time in the AHL, winning a Calder Cup with the Monsters in 2015-16.
He also spent some time in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild before playing in Germany for Adler Mannheim from 2011-2014.
"I'm very happy with how things have gone the last 13 years," Sifers said. "Obviously now, I'm going to take a while here to reflect on things and really think about the career that I've been a part of...I'm looking forward to the next little while of taking a deep breath and really just enjoying those memories."
Sifers spent the last two seasons with the Comets in Utica. Injuries shortened his first campaign in blue-and-green, but he suited up in 70 out of 76 of the Comets' games this year. In total, he played in 107 regular season games for Utica (five more games during last year's playoffs), where he totaled four goals and 15 assists to go along with an even +/- rating.
"[My time in Utica] was amazing, it felt like I was here a lot longer," he said. "I found that the people around here welcomed us very quickly, helped us settle in, and made it feel like home so that's important for myself and for my wife and my kids. We had a tremendous experience here and I have a lot of lifelong friends."
Sifers may not have been in Utica for long, in the grand scheme of things, but between the team, the fans and the local veterans community that became so important to him, the city and the area had a profound impact on him that will last with him wherever he goes throughout the next chapter of his life.
"This was a highlight of my career playing here. I took a lot of pride in wearing that jersey," he said. "It was a great stop along the way and I'm extremely proud to be a Comet and end my career as one."
"My message [to the fans] is thank you. I loved calling Utica home."