Wade Redden broke into the NHL in 1996 with the Ottawa Senators. In the 17 years since, he's played 1,118 professional hockey games.
But Redden didn't have much to celebrate when he cracked 1000 pro games back in 2010. It happened in the wrong league. After 994 NHL games, Redden was in the minors for the first time in his professional career. What should have been game 1000 in the bigs was actually game 6 of what would turn out to be an 119-game banishment to the AHL by the New York Rangers. Over the next two years, suiting up for the Hartford Wolf Pack and then the Connecticut Whale, Redden could only keep working and keep wondering if he'd be able to get back to where he once belonged and push his NHL totals over the hump.
He's done wondering. On Thursday night, as the St. Louis Blues play host to the Detroit Red Wings, Redden will finally hit 1000 NHL games.
It's a meaningful milestone for most, but considering what Redden went through to get to it, it has to be even more special. He could have given up and let his career die in exile (like Napoleon!). Instead, he kept working. From NHL.com:
"I went down there [to Connecticut] with a good attitude to work hard," Redden said. "I was going to the rink every day to play hockey. I tried to approach it the same way. It's still a pretty high level. The AHL has a lot of great players in it ... I still had to play hard and work at things.
"There were times when things weren't going my way and stuff like that, but you've got to battle through that."
The battle paid off. When the NHL emerged from the lockout with an amnesty buyout option written into the CBA, the Rangers jumped at the chance to shed Redden's burdensome cap hit, and Redden was able to find a team that was happy to have him on a more affordable deal in the St. Louis Blues.
Despite what his intimidatingly scowly headshot might suggest, one can assume this made Redden happy:
(What horrors has this man seen?)
Former teammate Daniel Alfredsson is happy too -- happy to see Redden back in the bigs, doing well, and poised to hit the milestone. From the Ottawa Citizen:
“It’s quite the accomplishment,” said Alfredsson. “I know how hard he worked to be ready for when he got a chance again. He was in a tough spot. He couldn’t really do anything. He couldn’t just ask for a trade and get a new start somewhere else. It was a really hard situation. We had talks about whether he wanted to keep playing. The money is obviously not the issue, but it wears on you mentally and with the motivation. I’ve been impressed with how he stuck with it and it’s nice to see that it’s paying off.”
Averaging 17:17 of icetime a night and contributing 2 goals, Redden's had 5 good games with St. Louis. But his sixth game will be better than good, because this time, he'll be able to celebrate it.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney