Begin soldiers into his 500th career NHL game
With years of grit under his belt, Flames veteran has earned plenty of respect
When it comes to Steve Begin, one image in particular is burned inside Bob Hartley’s brain.
“I’ve seen him all over his career, whether in the Quebec league or even in Saint John where he was captain when the Flames farm team won the Calder Cup,” Hartley said Sunday morning. “I remember seeing the picture of him with the Calder Cup, and basically half of his face his all smashed up.”
In other words, Begin did not exactly look pretty.
“But that’s who Steve Begin is,” said Hartley, the Calgary Flames head coach. “He’s going to take a shot. He’s going to drive to the net. He’s going to forecheck. He applies himself.
“So every day, you can count on him, because he is a true soldier.”
The “true soldier” suited up for his 500th National Hockey League game Sunday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Not bad for a career grinder with stops in Calgary, Saint John, Montreal, Hamilton, Dallas, Boston, Nashville, Milwaukee and (once again) Calgary.
Not bad for a guy who sat out two years and underwent hip surgery before somehow earning NHL roster spot on a professional tryout with the same team that drafted him 40th overall in 1996.
“I remember playing my first game here when I was 19 against Detroit,” Begin said, soaking it all up Sunday morning in the depths of the Scotiabank Saddledome. “I remember I made the cover of the paper.
“I just nailed someone — that was the front page. And then you turned the page to the sports section, and it was me again getting hit by someone.”
Sometimes, you hit. Sometimes, you get hit.
That’s pretty much the story for a guy blessed with sheer grit and determination as opposed to soft hands and pure offensive skill.
“I’m a big supporter of Steve Begin,” Hartley said. “There’s not enough guys like him in this league.”
For his part, Begin, 34, looks back and wonders where the time went — much like all of us at one point or another.
“Who knew I would play 500 games in this league?” he said. “Who knew?”
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