March to No. 900

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Usually it's the 1,000-game mark that draws all the hoopla.

That's when the gifts make it seem like Christmas. The NHL gives a silver stick, the team bears a present and even the boys chip in for something like a Harley.

When players reach the 900-game milestone, though, it's without fanfare or much big meaning to the player.

Not in the case of Flames defenceman Bryan Marchment.

"This is a big game for me, I'm pretty excited. It's one more page in the book," said Marchment hours before skating in last night's meeting with the Ottawa Senators, his 900th NHL clash.

"After what the whole league went through last year, I'm just happy to be back in a dressing room and excited to be playing hockey again. The 1,000-game mark, that would be something to do but I don't know if I'll get there. This is a good feeling."

He becomes the second Flames defenceman to reach 900 games this season. Roman Hamrlik, whose injury co-incidentally opened the door for Marchment to play for the first time in nearly three weeks, hit the mark early in the campaign.

Marchment wasn't alone feeling great about reaching the plateau. Darryl Sutter, who signed Marchment early this season when it appeared his playing days were done, was happy for the veteran defenceman, having coached him for a pair of seasons in Chicago, a half-dozen more in San Jose as well as the Stampede City.

"It means a lot to me because I've been with him for a lot of them," said Sutter. "And they're not casual games, either. He probably would have 1,000 games if it wasn't for injuries and suspensions.

"The other thing that's important for him is the number of playoff games he's been in. He's at or probably close to 1,000.

"There's a lot of guys with 1,000 games who don't have 50 playoff games and that's probably why they've played 1,000 games."

Marchment's playoff record consists of 83 games.

In the 899 regular-season tilts he'd played before last night, Marchment had collected 39 goals, 141 assists and 2,245 penalty minutes.

Funny as it sounds, the first isn't exactly burned into his memory banks.

It came March 29, 1989, when the Winnipeg Jets first-rounder was called up after finishing his junior season with OHL Belleville.

The details, though, are fuzzy.

"I think it was against the L.A. Kings (which is correct). I can't remember that far back. They sort of just roll into one another. It may have been Minnesota but I think it was L.A.," he said.

"My problem is I've played on so many teams, it's hard to remember your first game in most places."

He does remember, though time may have killed all the butterflies, not being nervous.

"I'd played a lot of exhibition games. You played 10 and I played in all 10, so I had my feet wet," he recalled. "My dad wasn't there but watched it on the tube because it happened really fast. I was called up after junior and didn't know if I'd be playing or just watching.

"It was the last two games of the season."

All the years, stitches, cuts, contusions and aches later and with a nose bending like the Rio Grande -- not to mention great times and teammates -- Marchment still has that zest for the game.

Which is why he doesn't rattle off too many specific memories.

"They're all good. I'm in the NHL," he said with a satisfied laugh. "We were talking on the road trip about how quickly it goes by. It really does go by fast, so you have to love it as much as you can while you're there."


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