ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – 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 center 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 honor 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 Selanne 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. Selanne 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 honor 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.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5