The NHL was founded in 1917/1918, and in the 100+ year history of the league only 7,842 players can say they played a game in the NHL. That number shrinks to 7,439 when we talk about playing in two NHL games.
6,312 players have played ten NHL games.
4,037 men have played 100 games.
3,119 players have skated in 200 games.
1,651 were lucky enough to play 500 games.
1,280 have played in 600 games.
957 men skated in 700 games.
To date, 685 players have skated in 800 games. And 481 players have played 900 games.
Oilers forward Kyle Brodziak was the 480th on Saturday in Brooklyn and later that night Vancouver Canucks forward Loui Ericksson became the 481st. Brodziak, who played his minor hockey in St.Paul, Vegreville and Fort Saskatchewan wasn’t supposed to be among the rare men who play 900 NHL games, but he did and he should feel very proud.
1. Brodziak debuted in the WHL at 16 and produced only 2-8-10 in 57 games. At 17 he scored 8-12-20 in 72 games and wasn’t drafted in his first year of eligibility in 2002. The next year he scored 32-20-52 in 72 games and the Edmonton Oilers drafted him in the seventh round, 214th overall. Brodziak returned to junior for his 19-year-old season and scored 39-54-93. He turned pro at 20 and spent three seasons in the AHL, improving each year, and after two short recalls in previous years, Brodziak became a regular NHLer in 2007/2008. Eleven years later he played his 900th game. It’s been an amazing story for a kid from rural Alberta.
2. He played one year of hockey in St.Paul before his family moved to Vegreville and he played there all the way until one season of Bantam AAA in Fort Saskatchewan before heading to Moose Jaw. I asked him if he had a minor hockey coach who impacted his career.
“There was one coach I grew up with in Vegreville who I had for quite a few years,” said Brodziak. “One of my good buddy’s dad. His name was Brad Tymchuk. He was a very fiery guy. Very emotional coach. He probably brought some competitiveness out in me for sure. I still see him from time to time. The way he coached our teams growing up with my friends, and we are still close friends today, and we are all pretty competitive guys. I think that stems from his coaching. There was no messing around with him, even when we were young, he was pushing us really hard. He was a great coach for me.”
3. He had ten goals combined in his first two WHL seasons. Then scored 32 in his third year. What happened?
“I don’t remember doing anything differently training wise, I think it was just being a year older, a little more comfortable and probably I had a good start, fed off of it and got some confidence. Without confidence you can’t produce. The first year we didn’t play very much. There was a couple young guys who played together and (laughs) there were some games where we didn’t get a single shift. It was tough. The next year I got promoted to the third line and it was more of a defensive role and the points weren’t going to be there. But that year helped me a lot, because I had to focus on being good defensively.
4. Brodziak vividly remembers a conversation he had with his Moose Jaw Warriors head coach. It was only a few short words, but it stuck with Brodziak and is a major reason he just played his 900th game.
“I still remember it very clearly. I was 17 years old and it was at the start of the year. Curtis Hunt was my head coach and he said if you ever want to make it to the NHL you have to learn this (defensive) side of the game. That year I was on the penalty kill, and even matched up against some of the opposing team’s top lines. The next two years in the WHL I played in an offensive role, but my entire NHL career has been mainly in a defensive role. I learned how important it was and how you have to take pride in your game when you aren’t scoring.
5. Hunt is currently the GM of the best team in the WHL, the Prince Albert Raiders. He shared his memories of Brodziak.
“The first words about Kyle is tenacity or doggedness,” said Hunt. “He had a tremendous work ethic. He took a tremendous amount of pride in his game. I’ve coached, I don’t know how many years, and he is top-two favourite captains I’ve had as a coach. I loved the way he played, and how he handled and managed our room and his teammates.
“I remember a story about Kyle. We were in Tri City and he kept taking these long shifts, and I told him when you are taking long shifts you are not working. And he kept taking them. So I finally said to him if you take another shift over a minute you will sit in the middle of the bench. Sure enough (laughs) we put him in the middle of the bench and that is where he sat the rest of the game.
“We were on the bus driving from Tri-City to Portland and he comes to the front of the bus and he sits down on the cooler between myself and the assistant coach. You can tell he is mad. He was rocking back and forth. He turns to me and says, ‘coach you will never have to bench me again.’ And he went to the back of the bus.
“I never forgot that. We get in this day and age where there is so much, ‘I deserve this and that,’ and I thought for Kyle he always looked at is as though it was a privilege to play. He gave you everything he had. He was one of my favourite players, and favourite Warriors and I am really happy for his success.”
Fifteen years later I could hear the respect and happiness in Hunt’s voice when we spoke about his former captain.
6. I first met Brodziak when he was a 20-year-old rookie playing with the Edmonton Roadrunners in the AHL. He was very polite, friendly and humble. When he returned to the Oilers this season he had the same traits, the only difference was he and his lovely wife Nicole now have three boys. He is still the same polite, humble and friendly guy. I asked him about his 900th game. Did he take a moment to cherish it?
“The last little while I’ve been doing some reflecting on some things. It has been tough because we are losing, but lately I’ve been trying to take it all in a little more and try to enjoy it. When you get to this point you don’t know how much time is left. I hope to play as long as I can, but you have to realize you never know when it is going to end so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can. All of my teammates came up to me before the game and congratulated me and they were all impressed I’ve played that many games. That was really nice,” said Brodziak.
7. Did they do anything special for him?
“There is a little tradition of reading the lineup before the game and I got chosen to do that before the game. It was the first time I’ve done it all year (laughs), not a lot of guys are big fans of it. It is something fun that gets the team going before we head out for the game,” he said.
Why don’t you like it?
“Every time the coach comes in with the small piece of paper you can see guys bury their heads, they don’t want to do it. You are speaking in front of the group and you are trying to get the guys going. There has been some pretty bad performances where guys are messing up names or messing up the lineup (laughs). Some guys are good at it and some guys aren’t very good at it.”
Was he good?
“Usually I will think about it in my head when I think it is my turn, but I didn’t think about it in advance. I wish I would have planned it out better and had some sort of theme, but I didn’t think of anything,” he laughed. Brodziak has never been about the spotlight and it isn’t surprising that prior to his 900th game he didn’t think about Ken Hitchcock asking him to read the card. If he makes it to game 1,000 he won’t make the same mistake.
8. It is amazing how a kid from small town Alberta worked his way to 900 NHL games. It is a wonderful story and Brodziak is hopeful there are a few more chapters left to tell.
“I’m sure when my career is over I will sit back and think about it more. It is pretty crazy. Pretty wild. I’m not going to lie, it has gone by really fast,” he smiled.
9. Here are some numbers to illustrate how unique Brodziak’s path to the NHL and 900 games has been.
The first NHL draft occurred in 1963 and since then only 14 players who were picked 200th or higher have played 900 games. Dave Taylor, the 210th pick in 1975 played the most games at 1111, followed by Hal Gill (1,108 games, 207th overall in 1993), Kimmo Timonen (1108 games, 250th overall in 1993), Henrik Zetterberg (1,082 games, 210th overall in 1999), Mike Grier (1,060, 219th overall in 1993), Radim Vrbata (1,057 games, 212th overall in 1999), Tomas Holmstrom (1026 games, 257th overall in 1994), Steve Sullivan (1011 games, 233rd overall in 1994), Tomas Kaberle (984 games, 204th overall in 1996), Craig Adams (951 games, 223rd overall in 1996), Joe Pavelski (947 games, 205th overall in 2003), Igor Larionov (921 games, 214th overall in 1985), Andrew Ference (907 games, 208th overall in 1997) and Brodziak.
10. Brodziak was never a prolific scorer in the NHL, instead he has played 12 seasons because he is responsibly defensively, can kill penalties and is good on faceoffs. Only 317 forwards have skated in 900+ games and the quiet, lanky forward who made his pro debut with the Edmonton Roadrunners during the 2004/2005 NHL lockout is one of them. That is pretty ridiculous when you think about it, and he is a perfect example who how we should never get too caught up in where a player was drafted or how good they were in their draft year.
11. The 1979 NHL draft class is arguably the greatest draft class in NHL history. Twenty-two players from that draft played 900+ games, the most of any draft class, and the top-five point producers from that draft class are all Hall of Famers: Mark Messier, Ray Bourque, Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet and Glenn Anderson. Brodziak and Ericksson became the 20th players from the 2003 draft class to reach 900 games played and with Dustin Byfuglien (864 games and Marc-Andre Fleury (788) within reach the 2003 class could tie the record for most players with 900 GP.
12. The 1993 draft class also has 20 players with 900+ games played, and five of them played for the Oilers. Jason Arnott played the most at 1,244, followed by Todd Marchant (1,195) and Chris Pronger (1,167) in the top-three GP. Mike Grier (1,060) and Miroslav Satan (1,050) were the others.
13. Congratulations Kyle on a fantastic achievement. You are one of only 344 Canadians to have played 900+ NHL games.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/19/2019 – 7:00 am MT