Even before lacing up for his first NHL game back in 2009 – he recorded a goal and an assist against the reigning Eastern Conference champions Pittsburgh Penguins – John Tavares has made his mark in hockey’s history books.
14 years later the Maple Leafs’ captain added another accolade: 1,000 career games played.
On Monday, Tavares reflected on this achievement and his path to this point in an interview on Real Kyper and Bourne.
“[I’m] definitely very proud of myself – of the commitment, the work ethic, the sacrifice and dedication and it’s really all those things because of the love of the game,” Tavares, the Mississauga native, said about reaching 1000 games.
“To have this game and this milestone where I grew up, in the house where so many people that were part of that either through my childhood, coming up through junior hockey and then professionally – it’s really nice to share with them, with my teammates and the organization.”
Tavares spent the first nine seasons of his career with the New York Islanders after being drafted first overall in 2009. He then made the move to his childhood club in the 2018 offseason.
Even though he entered the league as a high-profile and polished prospect, the 32-year-old has had to fine-tune his game to maintain the league-wide recognition as an elite talent.
“I’ve tried to take a lot of pride in … continuing to find the areas or the mindset that you want to attack and improve upon and see how things can evolve,” said Tavares. “That evolution is critical – to always think what you did yesterday is going to work tomorrow can be a little bit short sighted.”
Tavares may be 1,000 games into what is already a bright career, but the most pivotal games of his career will potentially come later this season where he has the chance to lead Toronto to their first playoff series victory since 2004.
With all the pressure the Toronto hockey market provides, Tavares stays grounded by keying in on the present.
“Sometimes it’s such a season-long grind, you’re looking at the big picture a lot, it can – I don’t want to say becomes overwhelming, but I think it takes away from just the focus of how you can just get a little bit better today,” said Tavares. “First and foremost, it’s just trying to take care of what we can and what we have to.”
In the meantime, the milestone watch for Tavares continues as he closes in on 1,000 career points. He’s 54 points away from that mark heading into Wednesday’s contest with the Boston Bruins.