There’s been Super Joe (Sakic), Foppa (Peter Forsberg), Saint Patrick (Roy) and simply Milan Hejduk. The latter is the most established Colorado Avalanche player of all time.
Monday night, Hejduk skated in his 1,000th career game. Only 50 others in NHL history have ever played a thousand or more games with the same organization.
"It's a big number," said Hejduk, who has played all 14 years, proudly, in a Colorado sweater. "I didn't think I would ever get there, but it's gone pretty fast. This is it, right? I came to the NHL when I was a little older; I started at age 22. It's a lot of games. I guess you go game by game and you don't think about it much when you start playing. You're happy to play your first NHL game."
Hejduk scored a goal and added an assist the very first game he played for Colorado, A very strong start that has carried over to the next 999 games, spanning 14 years that he has been with the organization.
Flip through the Colorado record book and you’ll see. Near the top of every single category you will find the Czech Republic native near the top. Hejduk is fourth in goal (372), fifth in assists (426), fourth in points (797) and second in game-winning goals (59).
Not loud or flashy, but he’s a staple of the franchise.
"You look at the stars that came through this organization, guys that were here before him and were kind of the face of the franchise," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. "But when you think of the Avalanche, Milan's name is definitely one that pops us. When I talk about the old teams and the championship team in '01, I always mention Hejduk.”
And as his regal legend grows, he will continue to do what he does best; stay put and play hockey.
"When you look at all the player movement now in the League, the ability to stay with one club is pretty impressive,” admired head coach Joe Sacco. “His game on the ice has been impressive enough, but I think one of the main reasons why he's stayed with this organization is because of the type of person that he is."
Hejduk came to Denver for his rookie season more than a decade ago with requisite skills on the ice, but a limited grasp of the English language. His persistence and acceptance, on and off the ice, have made him one of the most well-respected amongst the loyal Avalanche fans.
He made Colorado his home, and it’s hard to find a person that cannot pronounce Hejduk [HAY-dook]. That is no small feat on either front.
Hejduk accomplished so much for Colorado. He became a prolific scorer in the NHL, winning the Maurice “Rocket Richard Trophy for scoring the most goal in 1998-99, and was a critical piece when Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 2001.
"I never expected a career like this, so I'm pretty happy," said Hejduk, who is playing out a one-year contract that might be his last. "I'm pretty happy I've played for one organization. It's pretty special. I've stayed healthy and shown a decent level of play, so the team wants to keep you."
One thousand games and counting for Hejduk.