On March 28, 2013, Coyotes Assistant General Manager Steve Sullivan skated in his 1,000th NHL game.
At the time, he was one of less than 300 NHL players in the league's long history to reach that milestone.
Sullivan, currently in his third season as the Assistant General Manager of the Coyotes and the General Manager of Tucson Roadrunners, the team's American Hockey League affiliate, finished his NHL career with 747 points (290G, 457A) in 1,011 games. His 16-year career included stints with six teams.
A member of the Coyotes at that milestone, Sullivan played that 1,000th game at Bridgestone Arena, where he had played six seasons and 317 games with the Nashville Predators from 2003-11.
"It was a fairytale ending, for me to be able to do it there," he said.
"There are a couple of organizations that are up there as far as games played, and for me as a player, that's how I identified myself, as a Nashville Predator," Sullivan said. "To be able to reach that mark in front of those fans, it meant a lot to me. The city at that time still meant the world to me, and it still does."
The Coyotes skated to a resounding 7-4 victory over the Predators that night, tying a club record with six first-period goals.
Sullivan's playing career exemplified what it means to beat the odds. He was selected in the ninth-round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, a round that no longer exists. He persevered through injuries that forced him to miss extended time. He became an undersized force in a league that, at the time, favored bigger bodies.
"It was a blur, to be quite honest with you," Sullivan said of the record night. "I got a skate in the face the night before in Minnesota against the Wild and I was just trying to get through the game."
"The emotions of playing the 1,000th game and having a lot of friends and family in the crowd -- it was just about trying to make it as special as you can, trying to soak it all in just knowing that there wasn't a lot left going forward."
Five nights later, Sullivan was honored during a pregame ceremony when the Coyotes returned from that road trip. He received a golf trip and a watch from his teammates, along with the traditionally awarded silver stick.
A big part of his job these days is to help the organization's young prospects reach the NHL level.
"Once you're able to finish and move along, you start to reminisce and think of the journey," he said. "You feel for the guys that are able to play their first game, to accomplish the feat of being able to play in a National Hockey League game. That's a very difficult milestone to reach in itself."
Spoken by a man who knows.
Lead Photo Credit: John Russell - NHLI via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: John Russell - NHLI via Getty Images // Third Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images