NASHVILLE, TN -- When asked about playing in his 1000th NHL, Calgary Flames pivot Olli Jokinen hesitates for a moment, seemingly reluctant to speak about the accomplishment.
"I'm more of the type of guy who looks forward, not in the past," he said. "The way this business goes, the way this game is played, nobody remembers what you did two weeks ago. Nobody remembers what you did 10 years ago. You're as good as your last game or your last shift."
Jokinen, who doesn't want to draw attention to his own milestone while the Flames are in a heated battle for a playoff position, understands that playing 1000 games in the NHL is a rarity but feels like he is in the prime of his career.
Earlier this season, he stated he was playing the best hockey of his career due to the development of his two-way game. Not only is currently leading the team in scoring with 31 points but head coach Brent Sutter regularly pits him against the opposition's top lines thanks to his strong defensive play. His progression, he feels, will carry him through quite a few more games in the future.
"I still think I've got a lot of years ahead of me," he said with a smile. "I'm only 33 years young so I've got a lot of hockey left in me."
After a bit of nudging, the forward opened up about his lengthy career and admitted that he never thought he would hit the 1000 game plateau.
"You get drafted and dream about playing your first game then you from there. If somebody would have told me 13, 14 years ago that I'd play my 1000th game in 2012, I would probably laugh and say there's no way. "
Over the last 13 years, Jokinen has put together quite the career. Drafted in the first round (3rd overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. He put in 74 games over the course of two seasons and played one season with the New York Islanders before being acquired by the Florida Panthers in a trade that sent both he and Roberto Luongo to the Sunshine State in exchange for Mark Parish and Oleg Kvasha.
Jokinen set career highs offensively in Florida, scoring 39 goals and 91 points in the 2006-07, but when the Panthers decided to overhaul their club, he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes. He left organization as the Panthers all-time leader in goals (188), assists (231), and points (419).
The Flames, who felt the missing piece to the offensive puzzle was Jokinen, acquired him from the Coyotes on Mar. 4, 2009 and after 735 regular season games played without a postseason outing, the Kuopia, FIN native played his first playoff series. The Flames fell in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks but the forward notched five points in those contests.
He was traded to the New York Rangers late in the 2009-10 campaign but signed with the Flames in the offseason. Since rejoining the organization, Jokinen has scored 29 goals and 56 points.
Jokinen scored over 30 goals in four seasons, has passed the 60 point mark five times, and has recorded 281 goals and 653 points as he heads into game 1000. He has been remarkably healthy throughout his career and has played less than 70 games in only one season.
He's been a powerhouse for his home country, winning several medals with Finland during international tournaments. Jokinen was part of the 1998 Finnish squad that captured gold at the World Junior Championships, has won silver and bronze medals at the Winter Olympics (2006 in Turin and 2010 in Vancouver, respectively), has five medals from the World Championships and picked up a silver medal at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
While tonight will mark a special moment in the forward's career, Jokinen is aiming not to let himself think too much about it during the game.
"As a player, you can't get caught up in that stuff. The biggest thing is for us to get back to winning ways and get two points."