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Getzlaf legacy grows with Ducks, set to play 1,000th NHL game

Center who has spent entire 15-year career with Anaheim will reach milestone against Blackhawks

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

It was 2009-10, and Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer had announced his retirement at the end of the season. That left the Ducks, three years removed from winning the Stanley Cup, without a captain.

There were options: Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, veteran players who would have been worthy heirs to Niedermayer.

There was also Ryan Getzlaf, 25 and entering his sixth season in the NHL.

"We went through a pretty exhaustive process," then-coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had Saku Koivu, who had signed with us, and we had Teemu, and it was a decision that the management and coaching staff were participating in. When we canvassed the players, it was [Getzlaf] who they believed should be the captain.

"In a secret vote -- and we didn't release the numbers to anyone -- it was one vote apart between two players. I'm not going to tell you who the other player was. Personally, I thought [the result] would have been different.

"So, we felt, at that time, that we were better suited to give [Getzlaf] the captaincy because the players felt he was worthy of it. It kind of woke us up to having the understanding that this was his team."

It has remained his team ever since. Getzlaf is now in his 10th season as captain of the Ducks, and he has grown up and outlasted most of his teammates, seeing the team change around him. He has also surpassed Corey Perry -- bought out by Anaheim in the offseason -- and Selanne as the player with the most games played for the Ducks, a number that is set to hit 1,000 on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks at Honda Center (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-W, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).

"He's always had that presence about him," Perry said. "He was born to lead that organization right from the start."

Video: VAN@ANA: Getzlaf beats Markstrom for overtime winner

And though Getzlaf may never be as beloved as Selanne, may never take over the "Face of the Franchise" designation from that beloved icon, his impact on Anaheim and on the Ducks endures -- through the Stanley Cup win, the Bruce Boudreau years, and now into the remaking of the team.

"Obviously, there have been some great players that have gone through there," Perry said. "You look at Teemu, you look at [Paul] Kariya, Niedermayer, [Chris] Pronger, [Jean-Sebastien] Giguere. There are some big names that we had and played with for a long time. He's definitely cementing himself as one of the best in the organization for sure."

For so long, Getzlaf and Perry were twin pillars of the Ducks. Born six days apart -- May 10, 1985, for Getzlaf; May 16, for Perry -- they were taken with the No. 19 and No. 28 picks, respectively, in the 2003 NHL Draft, later becoming linemates and friends.

Now, though, Perry is gone, signed by the Dallas Stars to a one-year contract on July 1.

Getzlaf remains, his legacy building by the day. He not only has played more games for Anaheim than anyone else, but he has the most assists in Ducks history (665) and is second in points (933) and fourth in goals (268).

So is he No. 1?

"That's a hard one," Carlyle said. "Honestly, no. Teemu has endeared himself to people, through leaving and then coming back, continuing to have an imprint on the market, through maintaining strong relationships with the season-ticket base and through his restaurants. So, I don't think there's going to be anybody in the modern era that will surpass him, though if there was one guy that could have a chance, you'd think it would be [Getzlaf]."

Video: ANA@VGK: Getzlaf snaps Comtois' feed into the twine

It was what Getzlaf had always hoped for. He loved the idea of playing for one organization, growing and developing there, building a family and becoming part of the fabric of the team and community, "taking pride in representing it and being there for the long haul," he said.

He knows that Selanne might always be the most beloved Duck. But he feels that it's an honor to be mentioned with him, to be regarded as an important piece, for all the years and all the games he's put in.

"I just want to feel like I made a difference in the organization over the years, both on and off the ice," Getzlaf said. "That's all I can really ask is that people understand how much pride I took in that, in being part of this organization and representing it well."

It's unclear how much longer Getzlaf, who has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in 15 games this season, will play. He's signed for one more season after this one. The team is transitioning around him, getting younger. It's the first time they've had this much youth since Getzlaf and Perry were breaking in themselves, something that Getzlaf said reinvigorated him coming into training camp.

"I've seen him open up his arms and wrap his arms around it," coach Dallas Eakins said. "He's a smart, smart player. He's a very old soul. I almost think he should have played 20, 30 years ago. He certainly understands the team dynamic and he understands evolution of an organization and he's just taken it full on."

Things aren't what they used to be. Perry is gone. Other than backup goalie Ryan Miller (39), Getzlaf is the oldest member of the Ducks, and one of three skaters born in the 1980s (Korbinian Holzer, 1988; Carter Rowney, 1989).

Getzlaf has been able to build a life for himself in Southern California, to raise his four kids in one place. He has led this team through joys and disappointments, and now through transition, has played for this team more than anyone in its history, and now for 1,000 games.

"Whether he's scoring or setting it up, he's had a role in a lot of big plays and a lot of big moments," Perry said. "Even looking back at the Cup in '07 and you can keep going forward. He's got a big presence in that organization, and he's definitely cemented himself there."

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