Calgary, AB – It's been a long and winding road to 1,000 National Hockey League games for Owen Nolan.
"It's taken a long time to get here. A lot of injuries and a lot of surgeries," said Nolan, now a right winger with the Calgary Flames, his fifth NHL team.
|OWEN NOLAN – RIGHT WING |
BORN: Belfast, Ireland (February 12, 1972)
WEIGHT: 208 lbs.
Signed as a free agent on July 3, 2007 by the Calgary Flames.
Nolan played in his 1000th regular season NHL game, making him the 220th NHL player to reach the prestigious milestone Monday when the Flames hosted the San Jose Sharks, ironically a team Nolan spent eight seasons with, from 1995 to 2003.
"Honestly, I didn't plan it this way," smiled Nolan, hounoured by both the Flames and Sharks in a pre-game ceremony. "I'm excited about it. My family is here. They were at my first game so it is fitting that they will be at this game."
Owen Nolan bio and stats
And just what does Nolan, who started his career with the Quebec Nordiques, remember about his first game?
"Wow, that was a long time ago. I remember it was in Hartford, that's about it," he said.
A tough player with a goal-scoring knack throughout his career, he heads into game 1000 with 365 goals, 775 points and 1,656 penalty minutes. The latest five minutes in penalties came in the form of a fighting major in game 999 Saturday against Edmonton when he tangled with Oilers tough guy Zack Stortini. Nolan won the fight and added a little spark to the Flames with the dust-up.
"I might be older, but I can still fight," chuckled Nolan."I just thought it was the right time to do something."
"People know how tough he is. He goes out there and takes on one of the biggest guys," noted Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "He's done it for a number of years."
Indeed, he has. This is Nolan's 15th season in the league. His rough and tumble style has led to injuries -- shoulders, back, groins, knees. He missed the entire 2005-06 season with a knee injury. At that point some players might have packed it in. But Nolan didn't.
"You have to love the game to play that much," said Calgary head coach Mike Keenan.
Nolan signed as a free agent this past summer with the Calgary Flames, and is one of the alternate captains for the club. He will be the third player to play his 1000th game as a Calgary Flame, joining Craig Berube and Martin Gelinas.
Nolan has played on six NHL clubs during his 15-year NHL career: Quebec, Colorado, San Jose, Toronto, Phoenix, and Calgary.
Born in Belfast, Ireland but raised in Thorold, Ontario, Nolan was originally drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. The 35-year old has represented Canada at the 1997 World Championships and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, capturing a gold medal on both occasions. In addition, Nolan has played in five NHL All-Star Games.
He keeps playing because he wants a Stanley Cup.
"For me, I am still looking to win that Cup. That was one of the reasons for coming to Calgary. For me, I don't have that much time left," said Nolan.
He just missed winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche the first year the team was in Denver after re-locating from Quebec City. Nolan played nine games and was traded to San Jose for defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh in 1995.
"We needed a quarterback for the power play at the time and I was the trade bait," explained Nolan. "It is a business and I understand that."
Nolan is married to Diana, has a daughter named Jordan and son named Dylan, and makes his off-season home in San Jose, CA. They were on the ice for the pre-game ceremony, along with Nolan's mother and father.