GLENDALE – With the team bus idling in the Jobing.com Arena parking lot waiting to take the Coyotes to the airport for a late night flight to Anaheim, defenseman Zbynek Michalek took a few moments to reflect on playing his 600th NHL game on Tuesday night.
“It means a lot to me,” Michalek said. “With not being drafted, there were a lot of people doubting if I’d ever make it to this League. But I kept working hard and I came here and became a regular player in the NHL. I’m living my dream and it’s a big honor for me. Hopefully I have many more games to come.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Head Coach Dave Tippett joked that of Michalek’s 600 games in the League, he probably had played injured in almost all of them because of the way he sacrifices his body for the sake of the team.
In Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Vancouver, Michalek, 30, played 26:19 and added four more blocked shots to his season total – which is now 52 – second most in the NHL. Since 2005-06, Michalek has blocked 1,316 shots – also second most in the NHL during that time.
“I think my work ethic is what keeps me going,” Michalek said when asked to explain his longevity in the NHL. “I always try to give 100 percent in games and practices, and I think that’s made a difference for me. That’s the way I was raised by my parents and I don’t think I’ll ever change.”
He added, “There are more skilled players than me, but I think the time I put into it and getting into shape in the off-season and during the season has helped me. I’ve also been in the right place at the right time and been around people who believe in me.”
Michalek has played 443 of his 600 games for the Coyotes and he hopes to finish his career with the franchise that first traded for him just before the 2005-06 season and then again before the 2012-13 season.
“I can’t say enough how much I love it here,” Michalek said. ‘“I left here once and it didn’t work out for me. I learned my lesson… We have a special group of guys in this room and we’ve been through a lot together. When we win, we win as a team and not just as two or three guys. Everybody has a role on this team and that’s how we need to play. I really enjoy being part of this team and helping it be successful.”