Grand night for Nolan

Owen Nolan is set to play in his 1,000th game tonight against the Sharks. (Sun Media File/Al...

Owen Nolan is set to play in his 1,000th game tonight against the Sharks. (Sun Media File/Al Charest)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:49 PM ET

There were days, plenty of them, when Owen Nolan could have walked away.

Had Nolan decided to hang up his skates for good, done in by knee injuries, nobody would have batted an eye.

For the Calgary Flames forward, though, there was still that drive and determination.

"I'm still trying to win that Cup," Nolan said. "I know I don't have many years left, and coming to Calgary, I felt it was a great opportunity."

Nolan has yet to drink from the Stanley Cup, but tonight when the Flames meet the San Jose Sharks, he'll join a club with even fewer members.

Nolan will become only the 220th NHL player to reach the 1,000-game milestone.

The birth certificate may say he's 35 -- his bones have racked up plenty of miles and the blood and bruise count is too much to add -- but the thought of joining the prestigious club means plenty to Nolan.

"I'm excited. It's taken a long time to get here -- many injuries and many surgeries later -- but I'm excited," said Nolan, who's never played a full NHL season due to injuries. "My family's gonna be here, so it makes it special."

So what are his memories of the first game soon after being chosen first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1990?

"I can barely remember what I did yesterday," he said. "I think it was in Hartford (against the Whalers), but that's all I remember about it. My folks were at that one, so I think it's only fitting they're at this one."

Between that game and today, he's racked up 365 goals and 411 assists, along with 1,665 penalty minutes. He's also skated in 58 playoff games in which he's garnered 18 goals and 16 helpers.

The only other players to hit 1,000 games as a member of the Flames were Craig Berube and Martin Gelinas.

Making Nolan's big game all the better is the opposition. His greatest days came when he was with the Sharks from early in the 1995-96 season until late in the 2002-03 campaign. It was with the Sharks he became a captain, a perennial all-star and put up his career numbers.

"It wasn't planned that way, but it just adds to it," said Nolan, who came to Calgary this past summer after signing a one-year contract worth US$1.75 million in salary plus bonuses.

However, going to San Jose came with a price. Having gone through the lean years in Quebec and helping the Nordiques become a team on the rise -- Nolan was part of the gang that relocated to Denver when the franchise moved to the Rocky Mountains and became the Avalanche.

His stay in the Mile High City was short-lived though, as he was dealt to the Sharks for coveted blueliner Sandis Ozolinsh. Nolan became part of a young, building team again, while the Avalanche went on to win the Stanley Cup.

"That was a tough opportunity," he recalled. "We really needed an offensive defenceman to quarterback the powerplay. Unfortunately, I was trade bait."

"I definitely would have loved to be part of it."

Through eight games with the Flames, Nolan has only one assist to his credit, and he'll be first to admit he's fallen short of expectations.

He has contributed in other ways, notably a spirited scrap with Edmonton Oilers tough-guy Zach Stortini in the Flames' 4-1 win Saturday.

"I haven't been putting the puck in the net, so I have to contribute some other ways and try to stay physical," Nolan said.

"I might be getting older, but I can still fight."


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