Sunday, March 26, 2017
Jordan Eberle Reflects on NHL Career After Playing Game 500
If you ask Jordan Eberle, the first NHL playoff game he ever suits up for next month will mean a whole lot more than the 500th league game he played Saturday night against Colorado Avalanche.
But 500 is still 500, and only 20 Edmonton Oilers players in all of history can say they’ve played that many.
To put that in perspective, Paul Coffey only played 532 before he was traded to Pittsburgh. Esa Tikkanen played 522 in two different stints here.
Eberle’s played more Oilers league games than Sam Gagner and Georges Laraque, Dave Semenko and Bill Ranford. So, yeah, it means something for an organization that’s closing in 40 NHL years.
Eberle, who went into Saturday’s game with 27 points in 28 career games against the Avalanche, waxed philosophical as he tried to digest being about to reach 500 Saturday morning after practice.
“There’s been some long years,” he said. . “I’ve been here the whole time and it’s gone by quick.
“But the thing I’m most excited for is a playoff game. Took this much time to hopefully get into the post-season.”
Five hundred is a nice round figure, though no matter how you look at it, even if Eberle is keeping it in perspective.
“It’s obviously an accomplishment but it’s taken this long to get to the playoffs. What did Jaromir Jagr get the other day, 1,700 games? I’ve got a while to go” he said.
There have been far too many struggles than highlights for Eberle with the Oilers.
“The first six years really, with the exception of the lockout year, you get into this thing – probably what Colorado’s going through – where you’re out of it and you’re really just playing for pride and the season can be pretty long when it’s not going right,” he said.
“This season, just to have a taste of winning, it makes you excited for the years to come.”
Eberle’s first NHL game Oct. 7, 2010 against Calgary was one for the ages. He scored his first NHL goal on arguably the highlight-reel play of the season. Busting past defenceman Ian White with a great toe-drag, Eberle deked goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and threw a backhand up under the crossbar. A dream-like sequence of steps in the Oilers’ 4-0 victory.
“Exciting game, Hockey Night in Canada, but the best thing was having my family there to experience it with me. It was awesome. You always say, you’ll take your first NHL goal off your skate but it just worked out the way it did,” said Eberle.
Lots of NHLers were lucky enough to play 10 games or 25, but Eberle’s hit 500.
“You look at the Oilers and you’re around these hall of famers and icons a lot. Growing up, too, the alumni in the NHL is so good talking to the younger guys. I remember playing junior in Regina and running into Mike Sillinger (formerly of Oilers player development ) who kind of took me under his wing,” said Eberle. “He always told me it’s hard to make the NHL and harder to stay. That’s always stuck with me, especially now with all these young guys coming in”
Sillinger played on a slew of NHL teams though, not the one Eberle’s been on.
“Yeah, I think he’s got the record, 13 or 14 teams,” said Eberle, who was just off of the dozen teams Sillinger played on through trades or signings. “I’ve seen his silver stick for his 1,000 NHL games and there’s a lot of different teams on there. That’s a testament to him, though, on how many different teams wanted him and what a likeable guy he was. But we’ve definitely had different career paths for sure.
“I still remember my first shift, it was against Jarome Iginla. Shawn Horcoff and I were lined up against him. I think back and I’m lining up against guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin too and you’re kind of star-struck. But it changes quickly.”
Eberle looks at his goals and assists and points, along with the games now that he’s hit 500. But also the guys behind the bench.
“Yeah, I might have the (team) record for coaches: Tom Renney, Ralph (Krueger), Dallas (Eakins), Todd (Nelson), Todd (McLellan) and I guess MacT (Craig MacTavish). I was at camp when Pat (Quinn) was here too but didn’t play for him,” said Eberle.“It hasn’t been the easiest 500 games for sure but now I’m starting to get a taste (of playoffs).
“I know if I line up for my first playoff game, It’ll be a weight off my shoulders. TSN always has this feature about players who’ve gone so long with no playoff games. Now, I won’t be in there. That’ll be nice.”
(Jim Matheson/Edmonton Journal)