After a long and impressive pro career in Europe, Bangor native Derek Damon is preparing for life after hockey.
The former University of Maine standout recently announced his retirement after a 14-year, 784-game career that included 575 regular-season games and 65 playoff games in Europe.
The 39-year-old Damon, a center, played in five European countries, concluding his career with Heilbronner Falken of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL 2) in Germany the last two seasons.
He previously played in Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Finland. He also spent a season in Germany (2009-2010).
Damon, who ranks 42nd on UMaine’s career scoring list, is hanging up his skates on a high note. The last two seasons were among his most productive in terms of points during his 12 years in Europe.
He collected 58 points in 50 games on 20 goals and 38 assists for Heilbronner Falken last season, his third highest point total. It was the fifth time in his European career that he scored at least 20 goals.
During 2018-2019, he enjoyed his best season ever with 63 points (18 goals, 45 assists) in 52 games for Heilbronner Falken.
Damon, wife Andrea and their three children hope to return to their home in Florida from Germany next month. The children are 5-year-old Elizabeth, Keith, 3, and Annabelle, 1.
“I told my wife and my parents [Doug and Cherie] that I wanted to go out on my own terms. I didn’t want someone telling I wasn’t good enough or I was too slow,” Damon said. “I was content making this past season my last year. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could and I had my best year, personally, and, collectively, as a team.
That said, it ended abruptly.
“It was an unbelievable year and it was sad to see the season canceled [due to COVID-19] right before the playoffs,” Damon said.
His only regret was never winning a championship as a college player or a pro, especially since he believed this year’s team had a good chance to do so.
“But at the end of the day, that doesn’t define me as a person or it doesn’t define my career. When I look back, I feel extremely blessed and grateful to play for as long as I have. I am proud of my longevity,” he said.
Damon said he began skating at 21 months and playing hockey at 3.
“Playing hockey is all I’ve ever done. My oldest child [daughter Elizabeth] starts first grade next year so it is a good time to stop playing and move back,” Damon said.
He has a master’s degree in sports management and intends to stay involved in the sport.
“My passion is hockey. I’m looking at different avenues so I can stay in the game,” said Damon, who considers coaching one of those avenues.
He said he will be forever indebted to his parents.
“I remember starting out [skating] hanging onto the back of my father’s jeans going around Alfond Arena during public skating. They sacrificed so much for me over the course of my career. I owe them so much,” Damon said.
He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Europe, saying the quality of life was good and that he and his family were happy.
Damon finished his European career with 223 goals and 357 assists in 640 games.
Prior to his move to Europe, Damon spent two seasons with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, appearing in 126 games. He also played 18 American Hockey League regular-season games.
He had his best season as a pro during 2007-2008 when he tallied 25 goals and 50 assists in 51 games for Florida.
After his final season at UMaine (2005-2006), Damon played three games with Lowell of the AHL and then appeared in 15 games for the AHL’s Albany River Rats (2007-2008).
During his four seasons at UMaine, Damon registered 51 goals and 60 assists in 160 games. He ranks No. 2 among Maine natives in career points behind Bowdoinham’s Mike McHugh, who is 13th overall with 152 points.
Damon played in four NCAA Tournaments and two Frozen Fours including the 2004 NCAA title game against Denver in which his goal was disallowed because teammate Mike Hamilton’s skate was in the crease.
Denver won 1-0.
Damon played at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor before attending St. Dominic High in Lewiston, where he was the 1999 Class A Player of the Year after leading the Saints to a state championship.
He then spent two years in the Eastern Junior Hockey League with the Exeter Snow Devils before enrolling at UMaine.