ANAHEIM, Calif. — If Ryan Getzlaf had spent his career in a cold-weather hockey hotbed instead of sunny Southern California, the profile of the Anaheim Ducks’ longtime captain might loom much larger over his era in the game.
Getzlaf is perfectly happy to make his mark by the beach, and it gets bigger every year.
Getzlaf played in the 1,000th game of a career spent entirely in Anaheim on Sunday, becoming the first player in the history of this 26-year-old club to hit the mark.
The playmaking centre celebrated his latest milestone in front of the family and fans who understand what he means to the city and its team. The Ducks’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks also was the 2,000th in franchise history, meaning Getzlaf had been their man in the middle for exactly half of all the games they’ve played since 1993.
“I’ve been here a long time, and it was a very warm welcome,” Getzlaf said afterward. “I was a little emotional during the game. It was a little bit embarrassing. I’m not very good at those things, but it was great to see the family and have everybody here.”
The 34-year-old Getzlaf has spent his whole adult life in Orange County, growing from a rambunctious Canadian prairie kid into a married father who doesn’t party quite so much anymore. His four children surprised him with a tribute video before his landmark game, and the Ducks played it again when they held a pregame ceremony to honour the achievement before his 1,001st game Tuesday against Minnesota.
His parents also came into town from Saskatchewan to celebrate a milestone in a career that doesn’t appear to be slowing, even as it hits four digits.
“I think it has been a great privilege for everyone around here watching that young man grow up,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “He has been given much by the organization, and he has given everything that he has back.”
Getzlaf has been with the Ducks since they were still Mighty: He cracked the lineup in 2005 as a 20-year-old with a full head of luxurious hair alongside Corey Perry, his fellow member of the ’03 draft class and his perennial linemate.
Perry played in 988 games with Anaheim, but injuries and declining performance led to his departure for Dallas during the summer. Getzlaf is still in town and going strong.
Getzlaf has been a productive offensive player from his rookie season, emerging as one of hockey’s best passers while leading a series of elite playoff teams. He won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and the Ducks have been a consistent contender ever since, making the playoffs 11 times in his 14 seasons. He led Anaheim to two Western Conference finals during a string of five straight Pacific Division titles from 2013-17.
He even became the essential face of the franchise after the retirement of beloved forward Teemu Selänne in 2014. Getzlaf has handled it all with a growing maturity, but few concessions to age in his game.
Getzlaf is the 53rd player in NHL history to appear in his first 1,000 games with one team, and the eighth active player on that list.
Getzlaf scored his 934th career point with an assist against Chicago. Selänne is the Ducks’ career scoring leader with 988 points, but Getzlaf seems likely to add that record to his Anaheim trophy cabinet as well.
“Being able to play a game for a living is a pretty big honour and a responsibility,” Getzlaf said. “I owe to it to myself and to my family to play as well as I can for as long as I can.”
Getzlaf wasn’t the only NHL veteran rolling over zeros on his career odometer recently: Zdeno Chára, the Boston Bruins’ 42-year-old captain, played in his 1,500th career game in Montreal on Tuesday night.
Canadiens fans honoured the moment with a significant ovation — which is about as good as it will ever get for one of their home team’s longest-running antagonists.
Chára is the 21st player and sixth defenceman — including former Bruins captain Ray Bourque — in NHL history to reach 1,500 games. The 6-foot-9 Slovak joins Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as the only active players to hit the mark.
“It’s a lot of games, (but) obviously I’m feeling very humble about it,” he told reporters in Montreal. “I’ve been very lucky, and I’m very grateful I’ve been able to be in the right place at the right time, and get to know some very special people along the way.”
Chára made his NHL debut with the Islanders in November 1997 — a month before the birth of his current blue line partner, Charlie McAvoy. Chára has been Boston’s captain since 2006, and he won the Norris Trophy in 2009 and the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Chára has no interest in retiring anytime soon, and he is still in Boston’s top defensive pairing. He is likely to hit 1,000 career games with the Bruins near the midway point of this season.
“I love this game,” he said. “The game gave me so much. I just enjoy every day, being along with my teammates and go out there and perform. I just love competing, and I have extreme passion for the sport.”
Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (8-0-2) became the first goalie in NHL history to post a season-opening point streak of 10 or more games at age 36 or older. Rinne turned 37 years old last Sunday, and he continues to put up superb numbers in his 12th full season in the league.
A good chunk of Rinne’s success should go toward defencemen Roman Josi (5-11_16) and Ryan Ellis (2-13_15), who have become the sixth pair of teammate defencemen since 1991-92 to produce a point-per-game pace through their first 15 contests. Josi, who just got a $72.8 million contract extension to stay in Nashville, has put up five goals and 11 assists, while Ellis has two goals and 13 assists.
Game of the Week
Tampa Bay faces Buffalo in Stockholm on Friday in a Global Series meeting between two Eastern Conference elites that has plenty of local appeal. The Sabres are being driven by Swedish stars Rasmus Dahlin, Victor Olofsson and Marcus Johansson, while superstar Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman is planning to make his return from injury for the Lightning.
Leaders (through Tuesday)
Goals: David Pastrnak (Boston), 15; Assists: Brad Marchand (Boston), 18; Points: Pastrnak, 30; Ice time: Thomas Chabot (Ottawa), 26:22; Wins: Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 9; Goals-against average: Darcy Kuemper (Arizona), 1.69; Save percentage: Kuemper, .940.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville contributed.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press