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Stastny to play 977th NHL game, tie dad when Jets visit Canucks

Forward 'blessed' to be part of productive father-son duo with Hockey Hall of Famer

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

Paul Stastny said he will never match the numbers put up in the NHL by his father, Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, but the Winnipeg Jets forward is set to pass him in one category.

Paul will play his 977th NHL regular-season game when the Jets visit the Vancouver Canucks on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNP, TSN3, NHL.TV), matching the number of games his dad played in his 15-season career. 

"It's like the only number I have that will surpass him," Paul Stastny said. "He's my biggest fan and I'm his biggest fan. That's what fathers and sons are supposed to do. I'm just blessed."

The Stastnys have done plenty.

Peter scored 1,239 points (450 goals, 789 assists) from 1980-95 with the Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. He won the Calder Trophy voted as the NHL rookie of the year in 1980-81 with 109 points (39 goals, 70 assists) in 76 games for the Nordiques, his first of seven seasons with at least 100 points.

Paul has scored 744 points (259 goals, 485 assists) in 976 games in 15 seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Jets. He's on schedule to play his 1,000th NHL regular-season game as soon as May 7.

"I wish him to pass me in as many categories as possible, and nobody's watching more than I do," Peter said from his home in Slovakia last week. "I'm the biggest fan, and I just pray and wish that he'll get through this season without injury or some sickness so he can get to 1,000 games. That's a huge milestone, only for a chosen few, and it says a lot about a player. That's a major, major accomplishment, and he's basically there.

"It's very special, and I'm extremely proud."

Video: Peter Stastny became first rookie to have 100 points

The Stastnys are among the most productive father-son duos in NHL history. With a combined 1,983 points in 1,954 games, they are third, behind Gordie Howe and Mark Howe, who combined for 2,592 in 2,696 games, and Bobby Hull and Brett Hull (2,561 points in 2,332 games).

"It's pretty cool when you think about it," Paul said. "You're not trying to outdo anybody. You just want to go out there and have a good reputation and be known as a good hockey player, a consistent player and more importantly a good person. It's something we've always strived for."

Jets forward Mark Scheifele said he believes the Stastnys have accomplished that. He's been Paul's teammate twice, in the later part of 2017-18 when Winnipeg reached the Western Conference Final and again this season, after Paul was acquired in a trade from the Golden Knights on Oct. 9, 2020.

"[Paul] learned from his dad his whole life, then he's learned his own things through his very, very long career," Scheifele said. "That's true leadership, those guys that do everything in their power to be ready for every single game and that study the game, watch the game and love the game, and I think that's why he's a guy I definitely look up to a lot and rely on his opinion, rely on what he has to say about the game. I'm lucky to have him as a friend and a teammate."

The brain game is where Paul has excelled, and it's one of the things that pleases his father most.

"It's like watching myself," Peter said. "He just solves the situations so smoothly. There are three, four, five options, and he always picks the best one."

It's one of the reasons Paul continues to be effective at age 35, even though he's not known as a speedy player. That trend for speed is increasing in the game, but hockey IQ is just as important, Peter said.

So is managing your body and your fitness. Peter said in his final NHL season, 1994-95, his playing weight was 212 pounds. He said Paul began his NHL career at 218 pounds. Paul now plays at 193.

"Believe me, nothing is faster than the puck. Nothing," Peter said. "You only need to go short distances. There is speed and quickness, but it's all about anticipation and what you do at a given moment to give yourself a little advantage. He can do that. He manages space and time better than anybody.

"I'm almost jealous. He really takes care of himself. And he's always had one thing, endurance. He doesn't have the speed of [Connor] McDavid or [Peter] Bondra or those speedsters, and there are more and more of those, but hockey is a little more multifaceted than just one or two things. He's got plenty of tools to make up for what he has a little less of."

The Stastnys are texting each other constantly, and Paul said they talk two or three times each week. Often the plan is to just check in on the phone for a few minutes, but it regularly turns into a conversation of an hour or more.

There is as much catching up and staying connected with family as anything else, he said, but sometimes the hockey element becomes an invaluable resource, given the Hall of Famer who's on the other end.

"Not quite like a mental coach, but sometimes I can vent with him and he understands because he's been through it," Paul said. "He knows me as well as I know myself because he knows the situations I'm in. He was in the same situations. The Stastny traits are we're stubborn, we like to keep our feelings to ourselves and try to fix everything ourselves. So sometimes it's nice when you can have other people around us to bounce ideas off us."

And Paul believes that his father has guided him in many ways to the enjoyment he experiences on a daily basis, and how he views his own future, whether that's tomorrow, next week, next year or beyond.

"It seems like yesterday when I was coming into the League and I was the youngest guy on the team for three years, now the shoe's on the other foot," Paul said. "If I think about it, you have a good game and think, 'Yeah, I could play for five more years.' And then if you have a bad game, it's, 'I'm done playing.' That's the ups and downs of hockey.

"As I've gotten older and wiser, well, when you're younger you try to play everything ahead five, 10 years. And God kind of laughs and has something else in mind. Next year? I'll worry about that when it happens. I'm having fun and enjoying myself and my family is enjoying this and that's the most important thing."

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