Sam Gagner reaches 900 and fondly remembers the years of the Edmonton Oilers

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Although I was in a team that finished 21st, 21st, 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th and 28th, had played for five different coaches in seven years and had to shoulder all the emotional stresses that came with Linked to a poor Canadian team, Gagner cannot say enough good things about his time in Edmonton

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One of the first things people notice about Sam Gagner when they pay tribute to an NHL career of 14 years and 900 games is how much he still loves the game.

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It’s always nice to hear this about a veteran, but it’s especially uplifting to hear about someone who broke in during the Edmonton Oilers Decade of Darkness.

One would think that a baptism in a tepid bathroom of organizational failure would be enough to acidify everyone at stake, but not Gagner.

Although I was in a team that finished 21st, 21st, 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th and 28th, had played for five different coaches in seven years and had to shoulder all the emotional stresses that came with Linked to a bad Canadian team, Gagner can’t say enough good things about his time here.

“Edmonton has a special place in my heart,” said the 32-year-old Detroit Red Wing, who hit the 900 milestone against his old team on Tuesday.

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“I met my wife there. My daughter was born there. My wife’s family still live there. I owe a lot to the Oilers organization for giving me a chance and developing me. It is always something special to play against these guys. “

With 542 of his 900 games in Edmonton, Gagner is 20th on the list of all games played by the Oilers. He says his time here taught him valuable lessons that he uses today on a Detroit team in a rebuild mode of its own.

“It gave me a perspective and it helps me in the situation I’m here,” said Gagner, whose eight-point night against Chicago in 2012 is still the team’s all-time single-game record.

“It helps me to be a leader for some of the guys who go through some of the same things early in their careers.

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“I am grateful for my time in Edmonton. At the beginning of my career it was a great opportunity for me. I enjoyed being an oiler, playing there and living in the city. I have many fond memories of my time there.

“The second stint was a different phase of my life with a family and the Oilers started around the corner so it was fun to be a part of too. Nothing but nice memories. “

Gagner was never the tallest or fastest player on the rink, and never became the offensive star people predicted after scooping 118 points in 53 games at the London Knights and finishing sixth overall with the Oilers in 2007, but he did his career studies longevity, which young players throughout the NHL know well to consider.

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“Nine hundred games by the age of 32 are pretty great,” said Wings coach Jeff Blashill. “He came into the league and played straight away. It was great to see how he continued to develop his game.

“He came into the league as a highly acclaimed offensive player who was very, very good offensively. Now he has really rounded his game, is very proud of his defensive play and has become a really reliable player for us.

“He’s doing it right, he’s smart and I can trust him.”

Things didn’t go quite as Gagner expected or hoped when he entered the league – his 11 playoff games in his career are proof that he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – but he does also knows how lucky he was living the dream for 14 years.

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“There have been some ups and downs but I enjoyed the trip,” he said. “It’s hard to look back too much now while playing, but my old man played 900 too, so it’s a nice milestone and something for our family that is pretty cool.

“At the same time, I want to keep playing as long as possible.”

It’s amazing to have a father and son both playing 900 NHL games, but it’s not a race to get past Dave Gagner’s 946.

“As for me, I just count towards his total for what he did for me, how much he meant to me and what he taught me about the game and life. It is definitely nice for our family. “

Gagner has gone everywhere the game takes him. After his first seven years with the Oilers, he had one-year stints in Arizona, Philadelphia, Columbus and Vancouver. He even spent 43 games with the American League’s Toronto Marlies to start the 2018-19 season before returning to Edmonton for parts of two years.

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Edmonton relocated him to Detroit for Andreas Athanasiou on the 2020 Trade Dead Deal, and he’s been there ever since.

Everywhere he plays, they like him. He plays hard, he plays smart, and he’s great in space. This gives you 900 games.

“It’s a huge achievement, it’s a lot of miles, a lot of hockey,” said Draisaitl. “He’s had some tough times in Edmonton, as have all of us, but meeting him and being around him is such a positive guy. He loves the game so much. “

Email: [email protected]

On twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski


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