When I sit back and reflect with my family and my wife, it’s been a long time and we’ve really had some ups and downs and overcame a lot and have had some success. It’s been a fun ride. - Matt Stajan
CALGARY, AB -- He was only looking for one.
Now, Matt Stajan has hit 800.
“I think when you’re playing junior, the goal is to just get drafted, give yourself a chance to play NHL games,” said Stajan, whose 800th career NHL game came against the Boston Bruins on Friday. “Once you play your first game, it’s to get that first goal. Once you get that first goal and some games under your belt, then you kind of try to get into a routine.
“At the same time, it’s the best league in the world. It’s competitive. You can’t get complacent. Year-in, year-out you have to fight for your job. You have to come into camp ready. Even when you have ups and downs, you’ve just got to have the right attitude towards things. Mentally you’ve got to be strong because things don’t always go your way.
“Sometimes things go really well for you and you’ve got to make sure you don’t get too high. I’ve been given a lot of good advice, especially as a young guy in Toronto. You take it one day at a time. You’re never as good as they tell you; you’re never as bad as they tell you. You just go about your business, be yourself, be a good teammate, and work hard.”
Drafted as an 18-year-old from Belleville of the OHL in 2002, Stajan made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs some 10 months later.
His first full season saw a Maple Leafs roster that made his transition to the professional game a smooth one.
And outside of a stint with the St. John’s Maple Leafs during the work stoppage that eliminated the 2004-05 season, the now 31-year-old hasn’t looked back.
“I was very fortunate,” Stajan said. “I had a lot of good leaders. Obviously Mats Sundin was the captain, but I was lucky. My roommate my first year was Joe Nieuwendyk for a full season. Gary Roberts…I trained at his gym. He was on my team my first year.
“I had Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Tomas Kaberle…I can go on. We even traded for Brian Leetch and Ron Francis that year. I was surrounded by a lot of really big name vets and it’s definitely helped me have the right frame of mind and helped me get through my career and how to approach things day-by-day.”
Eight hundred of them, to be exact.
“It feels good. It’s a big number. I’m proud…happy I’ve played this long,” said Stajan, who has played 355 of his 800 with the Calgary Flames. “It’s a number and my focus always has been taking it one day at a time, keep going, focusing on the next game. If you do that, eventually the games keep piling up and that’s kind of what’s happening here.
“When I sit back and reflect with my family and my wife, it’s been a long time and we’ve really had some ups and downs and overcame a lot and have had some success. It’s been a fun ride.
“Hopefully we have bunch a years left here, but we know just to take it one day at a time and live in the moment. That’s the way we’ve always gone about our business.”