ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will play his 1,000th NHL game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-MW, NHL.TV).
Bouwmeester may be quiet in demeanor and personality, but it's far from the case on the ice.
The 33-year-old, who was selected by the Florida Panthers with the No. 3 pick of the 2002 NHL Draft, doesn't garner much attention off the ice. But on it, his presence has been felt since the day he made his NHL debut with the Panthers against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 10, 2002.
"He's quiet in public, but he's not quiet in the locker room," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester, who has 81 goals and 296 assists in 999 regular-season games with the Panthers (471 games), Calgary Flames (279) and Blues (249). "He says the right things at the right time that need to be said when you need it to be said. He doesn't waste any time. He has the gift that his mother [Gena] gave him."
Bouwmeester will become the 307th NHL player and 17th active player to play 1,000 games.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't [exciting]," Bouwmeester said. "It's a pretty big milestone. When you start your career, to say you'll play 1,000 games, you don't think that far ahead. It's one of those things where a milestone comes up that causes you to kind of look back and reflect a little bit. It's just a neat number, a neat thing to do. It goes by fast. It doesn't seem like you've done this a thousand times. It's crazy. I've played with a few guys that have kind of hit that number and you kind of think like, 'Wow, that guy's been around for a while.' It's just something cool.
"... My first game was with Florida, we played at home against Tampa. Actually, our first exhibition game was in Montreal, and I thought, 'A game in Montreal.' I thought they were all going to be like that. I remember it. You remember the early ones and not a lot in between. It's funny to the guys you played back with on those teams. Not many of them are around anymore."
In addition to his NHL success, Bouwmeester has won five gold medals playing internationally for Canada: the IIHF World Championship in 2003 and 2004, the World Cup in 2004 and 2016, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In all he's played for Canada at 11 international tournaments.
Bouwmeester's ability to stay relatively healthy for most of his 14 seasons has helped him build a solid career. He played 737 straight games from March 6, 2004 to Nov. 22, 2014; it's the fifth-longest consecutive games played streak in League history. Doug Jarvis is the leader with 964 consecutive games.
Video: SJS@STL: Bouwmeester scores on a slap shot
"Being healthy is a big thing. I've been lucky," Bouwmeester said. "I haven't had any major injuries that cause you lose to lose a big chunk of time during the season. Stuff happens that you can't really control. I've been lucky with that. I think as you get older, as you play longer, you kind of realize what works for you, and what you need to do in the summers to prepare for the season and during the year. Everyone works out in the summertime now, but during the year you have to do a little bit more and just kind of take care of yourself a little bit better."
The Blues acquired Bouwmeester on April 1, 2013, and one of his roles has been mentoring defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was named captain Aug. 25, and they have formed one of the more reliable defense pairings in the game.
"He makes my life a lot easier than it can be," Pietrangelo said. "You just watch what he does out there. I think both of us will say the same thing. We have good camaraderie, we read off each other well. He's smart and he does everything well on the ice. When you have a guy that's as well-rounded as he is, it makes life easier for everybody out there.
"There's a reason why he's played 1,000 games. He's pretty reliable. Night in, night out, you know what you're going to get from [Bouwmeester]. He's consistent. That's why he's a pro and one of the best I've ever seen."
Bouwmeester came into the League at a time when bigger was better. Despite the evolution to a more speed-based game, he said he doesn't see himself retiring anytime soon.
"I'm still having fun, I still like it," Bouwmeester said. "We have a good team here, so that makes everything more exciting. I'm 33; I don't feel real old or anything like that. I think I can still play. A couple years down the line you kind of see where you're at and the way the League's going. It's getting younger. I was reading something the other day that there are only 20-some guys over 35 now left. That's crazy. Usually there used to be at least three or four on every team. We'll see, but I'm not looking too far down the road."