It was October 10, 1998. The Colorado Avalanche started off a new season with more high hopes of winning another Stanley Cup Championship. While they didn't win one that season, they did get something else pretty spectacular. That was Milan Hejduk's first career NHL game.
Hejduk didn't wait long to make an impression, tallying a goal and an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
899 games later, Milan Hejduk remains a member of the Colorado Avalanche, and remains one of the great players in the history of the franchise, and in the NHL.
Hejduk is the only player the play 900 games only in an Avalanche uniform. He was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques, but he only ever suited up for the Colorado Avalanche. He is an Avalanche through and through. Neither the franchise, nor the city of Denver would be the same without him.
Hejduk has accomplished many things throughout his career. He has a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold and bronze medal, won the plus/minus award, and the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy.
He has also been voted to four All-Star Games, and led all rookies in scoring in his rookie year coming up second to Chris Drury in Calder Trophy voting.
Hejduk's career numbers are very good. In 12 seasons, he has 354 goals, and 395 assists and is an astonishing +122 for his career. He has had the good fortune of playing on some amazing teams, so his numbers should not be that surprising, especially given his talent level.
Hejduk is also the only member of the Colorado Avalanche not named Joe Sakic to have a 50 goal season. This was the same season he won the "Rocket" Richard Trophy for the league's leading goal scorer. He also had 48 assists that year, totaling 98 points for the season.
Hejduk also has another small bit of history, as the only NHL player to score on penalty shots in back to back games. He did this against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks in consecutive games in 2004.
Perhaps the most memorable Hejduk moment isn't of a playoff game, or a penalty shot, but an overtime goal he scored in Dallas where he did something that nobody would have ever expected out of him. After burying a beautiful goal, he proceeded to belly flop on the ice and do a couple of swimming strokes as his team skated towards him astonished at what they were seeing. This is not something that anybody ever expects from Milan Hejduk.
So how did Hejduk celebrate his 900th game? He had a great effort, putting a few good shots on net, and netting the only goal in the shootout to decide the game and give the Avalanche their second shootout victory in as many games.
The Colorado Avalanche, and all Avalanche fans, are better for having seen Milan Hejduk. Congrats to Hejduk on his 900th game, may there be many more for the burgundy and blue.