MONTREAL -- After 18 years in the NHL as part of five different teams, Roman Hamrlik gets set to suit up for game No. 1300 of his career.
Drafted by 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 during the team’s inaugural season, it’s only fitting that this milestone game for Hamrlik will pit him against the same organization that ushered him into the League during a draft that took place in Montreal.
“I’ve been able to play with a lot of great players over the years that I’ve really respected and who have influenced my game,” said the 36-year-old, looking back over his career. “When I was playing in Edmonton, it was Kevin Lowe; with the Islanders I learned a lot from coach, Peter Laviolette; in Calgary it was guys like Dion Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla. In Montreal, it was Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and getting coached by Guy Carbonneau.”
Despite a prolific career that saw him share the ice with a slew of other talented player, it was Hamrlik’s transition to Montreal that finally made him feel like a true NHL veteran.
“I think it was when I signed with the Canadiens and came to play in Montreal that I finally felt like I had enough experience as a veteran player,” admitted Hamrlik. “It was really here that guys were actually starting to come to me for help and advice.”
Hamrlik currently sits second, behind only countryman Bobby Holik, in NHL games played by a native of the Czech Republic. With Holik having set the bar at 1314 career games and the Habs’ veteran blueliner showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, it would seem inevitable that Hamrlik will hold the title before long.
“I’m doing my best to be effective while staying healthy. I try not to overstay my time on the ice, and when I am on the ice I make sure to play smart and be in the right position at the right time,” explained Hamlik when asked about the key to longevity in the NHL. “If I score a goal tomorrow I’m sure I’ll hang on to the puck. I’ll probably try to keep the puck to take home and frame it either way.”
While his contract with the Habs may be up at the end of the 2010-11 season, Hamrlik is quick to point out how he feels about the city and it’s fans as he gets set to decide the next step of his career.
“It’s a special thing to be able to play for the Canadiens in front 21,000 cheering fans in a city that lives and dies by hockey. I love this city, I’m comfortable here. It's too soon to start talking about the future but after four years, this has become my second home.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.ALSO READ: Carey Price: Power forwardSecond edition of the Habs radio-telethon The Apprentice A Chance to Capitalize