Kovalchuk's decision surprised teammates

New Jersey Devils defenseman Andy Greene was among those dumbfounded by former Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk's decision to retire from the NHL to return to play hockey in his native Russia.

“Shocked and surprised,” Greene told ESPN.com on Friday.

“It was bizarre. I think that’s the best way you can put it,” Greene said.

The defenseman said he was outside doing yard work when teammate Dainius Zubrus called to tell him the news, but he didn’t take the call. Instead, his cellphone began to fill up with text messages, and then his fiancé came outside to tell him that Kovalchuk was leaving the Devils.

“I was just like, 'What?'” Greene said.

The Michigan native praised Kovalchuk as a teammate and a leader.

“No one saw it coming,” he said.