Roman Hamrlik skated 21 minutes and 7 seconds in Pittsburgh Thursday night and blocked seven shots in what, by all appearances, seemed like a normal game for the 37-year-old defenseman. But the night held a greater significance, as Hamrlik tied the record for NHL games played by a Czech-born player at 1,314.
If he plays Saturday against Ottawa, Hamrlik will break the mark held by Bobby Holik and become the new leader.
“I never thought I can make that number,” Hamrlik said earlier this week. “When you hit a thousand games it’s just going faster and faster. I’m just happy to be here, still have lots of passion for the game and still have some dream. And for me it’s nice to have that number, but I have to focus on my game. It’s just another game.”
While Hamrlik may not treat the game as anything different than the many he’s played over the course of his 18-year-career in the NHL, it’s still an exclusive club to lead. As a kid and even during his earliest days in the league after being drafted No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 1992, Hamrlik never set this milestone as a goal.
“Not at all. When you grew up back in Czech Republic as a kid, especially in a communist republic, you don’t really know what’s going on,” Hamrlik said. “When I come here I was 18 years old, I was still young and you just grew up. in the last couple years it hit me how many games, how many years I was here and how lucky I am. I just keep working hard and stay healthy and it’s a nice number, but never in my mind I [think] I can reach that number. I’m happy to have that.”
Hamrlik is the second oldest player on the Capitals’ roster, behind Mike Knuble, and he’ll be 39 when his contract (worth $3.5 million per year) expires at the end of the 2012-13 season. Will Hamrlik look to extend his playing career beyond that year? Only time will tell, he says.
“I still have, like you said, two years and then we go from there,” Hamrlik said. “I want to focus game by game and see how it goes and see what’s going to happen.”
For a better picture of where Hamrlik stands in comparison with other Czech-born players here’s the top 10 Czech players in games played all time in the NHL.
1.Roman Hamrlik 1,314*
2.Bobby Holik 1,314
3.Jaromir Jagr 1,276*
4.Radek Dvorak 1,121*
5.Petr Svoboda 1,028
6.Robert Lang 989
7.Petr Nedved 982
8.Vinny Prospal 982*
9.Radek Bonk 969
10.Patrik Elias 963*
* Signifies a player currently on an NHL roster