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Milestone man

Claude Julien set to coach his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday

by Joanie Godin @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - One thousand games may seem like a lot for some, but it's not nearly enough for Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, who gets set to hit the milestone for NHL games coached on Thursday night.

"I still can't believe it's been that many games -- time passes so quickly. It's a nice number to reach, but I need to keep looking ahead, because I feel like I still have another 1,000 in me," admitted the 56-year-old on Thursday morning, following Canadiens practice in Brossard.

The only coach to reach 2,000 was Scotty Bowman, who set the all-time mark at 2,141.

So while he still has a ways to go, Julien for his part will nevertheless become just the 27th head coach in NHL history to crack the 1,000 games mark -- and he'll do so just two weeks after being let go by the Bruins.

Fittingly, that's given the Ontario native the opportunity to hit quadruple digits in the same city he hit his first.

"I consider myself to be very lucky to have the chance to be back where it all started," admitted Julien. "It's definitely something special."

Special, but not something that can be accomplished solo.

"Credit goes to a lot of people over the years. You can't get to 1,000 games in the NHL without being well-surrounded. I've had good assistants, good players, and lots of good luck," acknowledged the 14-year NHL bench boss. "There's too much work for one person to handle."

Growing through adversity

Julien has won at nearly every level, whether it be the Memorial Cup with the Hull Olympiques, the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, or the World Cup and Olympic gold with Team Canada.

But none of that would have been possible without first learning the ropes in the AHL, with the then-Edmonton Oilers affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs. Julien left a successful Olympiques squad to join the Bulldogs in 2000, and learned a lot along the way.

"We didn't have a good team that year in Hamilton. I had never faced that much adversity before, and it was probably the most difficult year of my career," recalled Julien. "That's when I realized how much you're able to grow through adversity. I think it was a turning point in my career, because after facing that kind of adversity, I was better able to handle it moving forward."

Reinventing himself

The secret to longevity in the NHL according to Julien is innovation.

"The game has changed so much since I started, that I've had to change along with it. Every year, I try to shake things up a little, not only to stay with the times, but also to keep the players interested," continued Julien, who holds a 539-333-117-10 record heading into Thursday's action. "You need to be able to keep things exciting year after year."

You also need to find the ideal work-life balance.

"I love my job, and coming to the arena every day. I always remind myself how lucky I am to be doing this for a living," added the former 2009 Jack Adams Trophy winner.

But does hitting such a prestigious milestone make a coach take a moment to look back at how far he's come?

"Honestly, no. I haven't really reflected on my career just yet -- that's something I'll save for when I'm sitting in a rocking chair one day," cracked Julien.

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