Two-time Calder Cup winner and veteran blueliner retires after
17 pro seasons, including seven in Rochester
(Rochester, NY) – Rochester Americans defenseman and assistant captain Nathan Paetsch has announced his retirement from professional hockey, ending an illustrious 17-year playing career with nearly 900 games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League and the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany.
“I was extremely fortunate to play the game for as long as I have and to create so many lasting friendships with teammates, coaches, front office staff and support staff,” said Paetsch. “I couldn’t be happier to have started and finished my career with the Rochester Americans. The city and organization not only gave me a place to play, but more importantly, a home and a family. It was extremely special to begin my career as a teammate of Chris Taylor and end it with him as my coach.
“I also want to thank all the other organizations I was lucky enough to be a part of. Playing in the Stanley Cup Conference Finals with the Buffalo Sabres was truly a dream come true. Winning two Calder Cups with the Grand Rapids Griffins will always hold a special place in my heart. The bonds I share with the city and organization will last forever.
“None of this, though, would have been possible without the endless support of my loving wife, Jaclyn, and two children, Kellen and Mira. I simply cannot thank my family enough for their countless sacrifices for allowing me to pursue my dream of playing this great game.”
A native of LeRoy, Sask., the 37-year-old Paetsch appeared in 258 career games over parts of seven seasons in the red, white and blue, recording 100 points on 23 goals and 77 assists. His seven seasons in Rochester trail only Darryl Sly for the most by a defenseman in the 64-year history of the franchise and he’s one of only 20 defensemen all-time with at least 250 games as an Amerk. He also added four points (2+2) in 26 playoff appearances for Rochester, leading the Amerks to the postseason in each of his first two years with the team.
It was off the ice, however, where Paetsch’s contributions were the most impactful. In his seven seasons with the team, he was unanimously named the winner of the organization’s McCulloch Trophy for his commitment to the Rochester community on five different occasions, the most by any player. He also remains the only Amerk in franchise history to receive the award, coinciding with being named Rochester’s AHL Man of the Year for his community service, in three straight years from 2018-2020.
Paetsch is also a four-time recipient of his team’s AHL Man of the Year award as well as a three-time nominee for the league’s Fred T. Hunt Award, presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
A seventh-round selection (202nd overall) of the Buffalo Sabres in 2003, Paetsch joined the Amerks as a rookie for the 2003-04 season following five years of junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Warriors. The following year, he and the Amerks enjoyed a record-setting season for the most points and longest home win streak while winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season champions thanks to an AHL-best 51-19-4-6 record. Paetsch would be the only Amerk to appear in all 80 games that season.
His best season as an Amerk came during the 2005-06 campaign when he posted career-highs in goals (11), assists (39) and points (50) to lead all Rochester defensemen and finish ninth in scoring among all AHL blueliners. For his efforts, he would be named Amerks MVP, becoming just the third defenseman in team history to earn the honors.
That year would also see Paetsch make his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres, paving way for a full-time spot in the NHL with the Sabres and later the Columbus Blue Jackets over the next four seasons.
Paetsch played an integral role during Buffalo’s record-setting season in 2006-07, his first at the NHL level, recording a career-high 24 points (2+22) in 63 games. He helped the Sabres set franchise records for the most consecutive wins and road wins to begin a season while also leading Buffalo to the 50-win mark for just the second time in franchise history. The Sabres also tied the franchise mark for the most points in a season on their way to capturing their first President’s Trophy as regular season champions and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Paetsch would play parts of the next three seasons with the Sabres and Blue Jackets, totaling 42 points (7+35) over 167 career NHL games.
Following a brief return to Rochester in 2010-11 and a season abroad in Germany, Paetsch spent five seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he led the team to five straight playoff appearances and two Calder Cup championships while also serving as team captain during the 2016-17 campaign.
He rejoined the Amerks for his third stint in Rochester prior to the 2017-18 season, playing out the final 43 games of his career with 14 points (2+2) over his final three seasons.
In his AHL career, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound blueliner amassed 259 points (52+207) over 651 career AHL games with Rochester, Grand Rapids and Syracuse, while also adding 34 points (5+29) in 104 playoff contests. During the 2016-17 season with Grand Rapids, he became just the 18th player in AHL history to play in 100 or more Calder Cup Playoff games.
He departs the organization ranked 25th in scoring among all-time defensemen in franchise history, joining the likes of Amerks Hall of Famers Jim Wiemer and Randy Cunneyworth to begin and end their playing careers in Rochester.