UPDATE: Chimera played his 1,000th game on Friday night in Detroit and scored vs. the Red Wings. He'll be honored before Saturday's game against Carolina, his 1001st NHL game.
Jason Chimera's mantra is that there are never bad days in the NHL. On the cusp of his 1,000th career game, life's gone pretty well to this point.
"It's a funny game, you never think you'll play that long in the league," Chimera said. "I owe a lot to hockey, hockey has treated me so well."
The 1,000 game club is an exclusive one, as only 308 players have hit the milestone as the NHL celebrates its 100th season. Chimera will be number 309 when he suits up in Detroit on Friday night and while he won't get the ceremonial silver stick until Saturday's home game, he'll have friends flying into Joe Louis Arena for the occasion.
And for Chimera, the 121st pick in the 1997 draft, it is an occasion and 1,000 games is a milestone worth celebrating.
The 37-year-old winger knows that his goals, assists and point totals don't jump off the page, but when it's all said and done, the back of his hockey card will have four digits under games played and that means something to him.
Video: Jason Chimera's 1000th Game
"That number is pretty cool," said Chimera, who has 18 points (10G, 8A) this season. "You don't get to pat yourself on the back too many times in this game, but this is one of times you can look back and it's been a pretty good ride. It's not over, so hopefully many more miles to come, but that's a pretty cool number."
Chimera has a lot of people to thank, from his parents, to his wife and his teammates - notably former Oiler Brian Swanson who helped him in the AHL and in Edmonton - and said no one gets to 1,000 games alone. Chimera's learned many lessons throughout his 999 games, but perhaps the best is how to adapt. A lot has changed since he entered the league on Dec. 9, 2000, from the game on the ice to the focus on training, nutrition and performance off of it.
"It'd be funny, but guys used to think post-game shakes were beers when you first started," Chimera said. "You learn to workout smarter, work out different ways, eat different ways."
Chimera benefitted from the NHL's rule changes after the 2004-05 lockout, as the league did away with clutching and grabbing, giving fast players the ability to thrive. Speed is Chimera's best asset and one of the foundations to his game and he's found ways to preserve it even as he's gotten older.
Video: CBJ@NYI: Chimera buries a laser past Bobrovsky
"It says a lot about a player to be able to play that many games," said Interim Coach Doug Weight, who played 1238 games in his NHL career. "To be able to not only stick around and be an NHLer, but to keep getting jobs and keep playing, Chimmer is a great example of that. I think it's a great milestone and something that we're all proud to be here for him."
Since 2005-06, Chimera has had six 15-goal seasons and is likely to hit that threshold again in his first season with the Islanders. He's scored 20 goals and hit 40 points twice since 2011. That's the top reason that he's stayed in the league this long, but being a good teammate and a good influence in the room certainly helps. He's the oldest player on the Islanders, but ask his teammates and they'll tell you he acts like one of the youngest - pleated pants aside.
"He's quite the character," Brock Nelson said. "A lot of positive energy. Times might be a little tough here and there and he's coming in singing every song on the radio, cracking jokes and with a smile on his face. Every day showing up he's one of the first guys here. It's good to have a guy like that who you can kind of lean on."
One thousand games can blur together, but certain memories are vividly clear to Chimera. There's traveling to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena (the Igloo) for the 1997 draft only to be drafted by his hometown Edmonton Oilers, his first game (Dec. 9, 2000 vs. LA), his first goal (Dec. 18, 2001 at NYI) and his double-OT winner vs. the Rangers in the 2011 playoffs.
"Your first game with a lot of teams," Chimera added as other memorable games. "There's been a lot of cool moments, a lot of firsts and hopefully a lot of firsts still to come."
At a minimum, it takes a player at least 12 seasons to reach 1,000 games and countless hours just to break into the league. Really, it's a life devoted to hockey and even through 1,000 games, he has never lost a love for the game. But how could he? There are no bad days in the NHL.