|Bryan Smolinski became the second Canadiens player to reach 1,000 games this season. |
MONTREAL – For Bryan Smolinski, facing his buddy Glen Murray and the Bruins for his 1,000th NHL game was only fitting.
Smolinski hardly came away empty-handed from his 1,000th game with a pair of points in the standings in one pocket and a nifty assist on Mikhail Grabovski’s first NHL goal in the other. The irony of that wasn’t lost on the veteran center.
“I think I was more excited than Grabo when he put that one in,” said Smolinski with a smirk. “I mean, I was lucky enough to have guys like Bourque, Neely, Oates and Moog there to help me along with the Bruins. All I can hope for is to be there for my young teammates .”
Smolinski is now the 219th player to suit up for 1,000 games since Gordie Howe was the first to get there back in 1961. Smolinski is also only the 27th US-born player to reach the revered milestone and the native of Toledo, Ohio knows the secret to his success.
“Laughter,” said Smolinski without any hesitation. “It’s all about working hard and having fun. That’s how I got here, but I have to admit that all these games went by in a flash. I’m proud to represent my hometown and my family especially since Toledo isn’t a place where hockey is the No. 1 game in town.”
Drafted 21st overall by the Bruins at the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Smolinski made his debut in 1992-93 against the Penguins at the Boston Garden. Now 999 games later, the 35-year-old came full-circle on Tuesday night as he stared across from the very franchise that gave him his start.
|Bryan Smolinski made his NHL debut in March 1993. |
“It’s a totally different team on the other side, but it still means a lot to me to have this happen with my good buddy Glen Murray on the ice,” admitted Smolinski. “We started out together and here we are again 1,000 games later.”
In the Bruins lineup when Smolinski was just breaking into the NHL in the early ‘90s, Murray remembers being equally wet behind the ears back then.
“Yeah, there we were just a couple of rookies,” recalled Murray, who played with Smolinski with the Bruins, Penguins and Kings. “We were even roommates our first couple of years in Boston. It’s amazing how time flies.
“It was nice to be here for Bryan’s 1,000th game,” added Murray, who now sits at 954 games in his own right. “We’ve gotten pretty close over the years and no matter how many games he’ll play, Smoke will be always be the same fun-loving, down-to-earth guy he’s always been.”
Having shared much of their NHL travels as teammates, the now-seasoned veterans have each earned their respective spots on one another’s speed dial.
“We’re still in close contact, I mean he was even in my wedding party,” said Murray. “I’m not surprised to see him fit in so quickly here with the Habs, that’s just Bryan. It doesn’t matter how many different teams he’s played for, he’s always one of the most popular guys in any NHL dressing room.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com