Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski played his first NHL game as a member of the Florida Panthers in 1995 inside the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
While that rink is now gone, ‘Jovo’ still is standing tall and thriving. Tonight he played his 1,000 NHL game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
“Coming into the league I think reaching 1,000 games is the furthest thing from your mind but it’s something you’re proud of,” Jovanovski said. “... It’s a milestone not reached as many times as you think so it’s a great honor.”
Only 255 other players have played 1,000 games in the NHL’s storied history. Jovanovski entered his 1,000th game with 132 goals, 346 assists and 478 points.
“Ed Jovanovski has been an elite defenseman in the NHL for his entire career,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “He brings a much desired combination of skill, aggression and competitiveness to the ice. His work ethic and professionalism are qualities we look for in all our young defenseman.”
It’s been a memorable ride for the first overall pick of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft who lists five All-Star Game appearances among his many accomplishments.
Asked to explain the keys to his longevity, Jovanovski said:
“I think my passion for the game, my excitement for the game and my emotion. I love the game just as much today as I did when I broke into the league. It’s an honor to play in this league. It’s a privilege and you don’t take any day for granted. There’s time to have good times, and there’s time to buckle down and pay the price for your teammates. It will go a long way for you.”
Jovanovski made his NHL debut on Nov. 2, 1995 for Florida against Philadelphia. The Panthers won that game, and the next 10 in a row en route to the Eastern Conference championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals against Colorado. The Avs won that series, but Jovanovski remembers the experience fondly because it helped him realize at an early age exactly what’s required for an NHL player and an NHL team to be successful.
“It’s a tough road and it’s a tough championship to win,” Jovanovski said. “A lot of things have got to come together at the right time to have success and it’s a wild ride for sure.”
He has a personality that everyone loves and they gravitate towards him. He’s incredibly comfortable in who he is and how he acts, and people like that. He’s a leader just because of that personality." - Shane Doan
Jovanovski lists Florida teammates Gord Murphy, Scott Mellanby and Brian Skrudland as his mentors. Their work ethics, he said, were contagious.
“Watching them on an every-day basis as a young kid (it) was definitely something I caught on to,” Jovanovski said.
Jovanovski played 253 games for Florida, then 434 for Vancouver before signing with the Coyotes on July 1, 2006. Tonight was his 313th game for Phoenix.
“He’s one of those guys who has the ability to change a game in so many different ways, whether it’s offensively or making a great defensive play or being physical and fighting somebody,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan
, who reached the 1,000 game milestone last season. “That’s the reason why he went first overall in the draft. He’s a franchise defenseman.”
Doan added, “I was his biggest fan so when we signed him I was pretty excited.”
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett also admires the way Jovanovski plays the game.
“Any time a player plays that many games in the league he has established himself as a top NHL player,” Tippett said. “If you look at ‘Jovo’ and how hard he plays and the way he’s competed throughout his career, it’s really a great feat for him.”
Tippett often cites the leadership of Doan and Jovanovski as key reasons for the team’s recent success.
“(Jovo) practices hard every day and he’s just a real professional in the things that he does, and that certainly rubs off on the younger players,” Tippett said.
“He has a personality that everyone loves and they gravitate towards him,” Doan said. “He’s incredibly comfortable in who he is and how he acts, and people like that. He’s a leader just because of that personality."
Jovanovski recently notched his first career hat trick.
So, was that game his favorite game of the 1,000 he has played in the NHL?
“I don’t see one game being more significant over any other ones,” Jovanovski said. “I think any game that you’re in the lineup is a good day.”
to listen to 'Jovo' discuss reaching the 1,000 game milestone.