The Ilya Kovalchuk contract rejection is all over the hockey blogosphere today (because really, it's the only thing going on). Behind The Net did a good comparison to other recent "lifetime" contracts and you can see why this one goes further past the boundaries of the other ones. In my last post, I noted a study from Quant Hockey that showed 0.02% of players played at 44, and here's another breakdown worth looking at: a list of notable star players that retired since 2007.
It's a pretty simple list below, but you can see the names are a mix of Hall of Famers, strong first-line players, and gritty warriors. Some of them could have kept going, some just weren't offered a contract, and some of them simply couldn't handle the physical demands anymore after years of NHL hockey.
Four guys retired at 40: Rob Blake, Brendan Shanahan. Joe Sakic, and Joe Nieuwendyk. Only Gary Roberts played past then; everyone else on the list was under 40.
42 (the age of Marian Hossa's contract) is really, really stretching it but still barely within the slight realm of reality. 44 (the final year of Kovalchuk's contract) really isn't. There's pushing boundaries, and then there's taking a Mega Man-style leap over the line.
And just because I'm going to force my nerd-ness on everyone, this is the greatest speech in cinema history about drawing the line: