Continued hip problems finally proved to be too much for Luke Opilka. The goalie from Effingham, Ill., who later moved to St. Louis to further his career, is retiring from hockey.
Prior to the Blues' post-draft development camp in late June, Opilka told the Post-Dispatch that he had already undergone hip surgery three times _ once in the spring of 2016 and twice in the fall of 2017. Two of those were on his left hip and one to his right hip.
He participated in that camp, but additional hip problems led to his retirement decision. According to the Blues, Opilka currently is recovering and rehabilitating from yet another hip surgery.
"I want to thank the St. Louis Blues, my hometown team, for drafting me and giving me an opportunity to pursue my dream," Opilka told the Blues. "Unfortunately, my career ended sooner than I hoped, but I'm excited to continue my education and begin a new chapter in my life."
All the flopping, dropping and squatting required from a goaltender has not been conducive to healthy hips for Opilka. He said in June that the hip problems were a structural issue, and not necessarily related to specific injuries.
“The surgeons always told me if I wasn’t a goalie I probably would never have needed it,” he said. “I probably would’ve never known it.”
Opilka, 21, hasn’t played in a game since the spring of 2017, when his Kitchener Rangers lost to the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. But then came surgeries Nos. 2 and 3 in September and October of 2017.
Opilka played youth hockey for the Affton Americans and then the St. Louis AAA Blues. He then spent two seasons (2013-15) with the U.S. National Team Development Program, winning a goal medal with Team USA at the U-18 World Championship in 2015.
Two months after the 2015 World Championship, Opilka was drafted in the fifth round (No. 146 overall) by the Blues. Opting out of a commitment to play for the University of Wisconsin, he spent the next two seasons with Kitchener in the OHL. Then came the hip surgeries.
He began this season on the Blues' injured/non-roster list.