As told to Adam BradyClick here for Part 1
You never know 100 percent before the season is over, but I look at this like it’s my last season. I’ve said that many times in the last few years, but that’s the way I can really see doing things right and staying motivated.
It’s amazing because I never expected I would play this long or if I wanted to play this long. When I came back after that lockout year, I realized two things: 1. How much I love this game; and 2. How fun it is to play when you’re healthy. I’m always trying to remember that and appreciate it, even today.
I’ve watched the video many times of the goal I scored to break the rookie goal-scoring record, when I threw my glove in the air and pretended to shoot it with my stick, like a gun. I wouldn’t do that again, that’s for sure. But I was young and excited.
Of all the records and milestones I’ve been lucky enough to reach in my career, I think 1,000 games is my favorite. That’s quite an honor in this league. You know you’ve had to do a lot of things to achieve that, and have a lot of luck to stay healthy and play that long. I’ve always kind of thought that all the goals and the points and everything else, they’re just bonuses.
The lockout was a bad thing for the league, but without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here without it. I knew I had to have knee surgery or I wasn’t going to be able to play at all. It was bothering me so much that I couldn’t even enjoy hockey anymore. I couldn’t skate normally and I lost the passion, and that last year in Colorado before the lockout was a tough year because of that. I wished I could just blink that year away, but at the same time, it was a very important time for me because it made me realize how important it is to be healthy to enjoy playing this game. Without the lockout, there was no way I was going to be able to come back. I would have been 35 years old and missing a whole year of hockey. But I decided right away that whether we had a season or not, I was not going to put skates on one time before I felt like I was as good as I was before. We had that year away from the game, I rehabbed and I was signed by Anaheim. And playing the game healthy, I enjoy it as much or more than I ever have in my career.
After we won the Cup in 2007, I felt like I couldn’t get motivated anymore to come back and play this game. I had just reached the ultimate goal, and I thought it was be a great story to go out on top. Even the next November, I still thought I was done. I had such a satisfied feeling about hockey and what I had accomplished. But my biggest mistake was when I started coming to the games and seeing these guys here. And then my boys wanted to come to the games, and watching with them, I started getting excited again. My kids were like, “Dad, I think you should go back” or “Look at that guy miss that goal out there. You would have scored that.” Eventually, I started thinking, Maybe I should skate a little while and see how I feel. I didn’t even know where my gear was.
I started skating by myself, and that was so stupid. I said, I’m not enjoying this. I’m in the wrong place. I want to go play golf. Then I started playing pickup hockey with some guys and it was so much fun. Finally, I decided, You know what? I think I’m back. And that was a great decision, because I still really enjoy coming to the rink.
I have a couple of different moves that I try to stick with on a shootout or a breakaway, but I’m a big learner and I try to study how different goalies do different things. I think every player has a couple of different things they want to try. I just look to see if the goalie comes out or not. If he comes out, I’m going to try and deke. But most of the goalies stay in, especially in the shootouts, and that’s when I try a quick shot.
When I do retire, the one thing I won’t miss is the flying. When it’s a smooth flight, I don’t mind it at all, but the bad ones kind of freak me out. I’ve learned to deal with it better over the years. Players sit in the back of the plane, but when it gets bad, I always walk to the front because it’s less bumpy. Going to different cities is great, but flying can be rough.
There is no better place to play hockey than here. When you leave the rink, not too many people recognize you, so you get your privacy. You don’t face the pressure from fans and media that you face in other cities, so you can really keep your focus on hockey. But at the same time, we have a great fans and a great organization. Since I’ve been back here, it’s been like a big family. And when you factor in the weather, this place is paradise. I’ve played in a lot of places, a lot of good places, but nothing is like Orange County. Nothing.