Milan Hejduk described several times his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in 1998. Joe Sakic and Keith Jones assisted as the Colorado Avalanche lost to the Ottawa Senators 5-3. It was an unremarkable game if not for that goal, but years later, as Sakic delivered his former Stanley Cup Champion line mate his silver stick, it suddenly had significance. Last night, Hejduk joined Sakic as the only players to play over 1,000 games with the Quebec Nordiques/Avalanche. Hejduk is the lone player with the accomplishment while playing only for the Avalanche. Colorado lost an unremarkable 1,000th game to the Dallas Stars 3-2, but it had great significance to me.
The game set up in a mythical way. I was in a row of friends that included the memorial plaque placed in the box to honor my friend Jessica Redfield. Hejduk scored the Avalanche’s first goal of the game and his first of the season as he moved two away from the 800-point mark. It’s only fitting that the last symbol of the Avs glory days notch a goal on a special night when his kids joined him for the national anthem. 1,000 games later and Hejduk’s professionalism is still apparent every moment he is on the ice.
Later in the locker room, he told a small crowd that story of his first goal in his first game. One reporter asked if Hejduk felt 1,000 games had arrived quickly and Hejduk agreed, but said he felt this milestone would stand out more when he retired. I can’t wait for game two.