Congratulations Matt Stajan, that’s really all we can say.
As Stajan prepares to dress for his 1000th career NHL game, he’ll be reaching a milestone that many NHLers never accomplish. Only 318 players have ever reached that mark in the 100 year history of the NHL.
His career may not have had the high-scoring glamour of others, but he worked his backside off every single year and you have to respect all he has done for the game, both on the ice and off of it.
Matt Stajan was born and raised in Mississauga Ontario.
His junior career began when he was drafted 79th overall by the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. Stajan racked up 27 points in his first season with Belleville before exploding with 85 points in 68 games during the 2001-02 season which was his draft year.
Stajan was then selected by his hometown and childhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was picked in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft at 57th overall. Skip the video to 6:50 to see his selection and a follow up interview with a very young Matt Stajan.
Following his selection, Stajan returned to Belleville for another season, improving his totals to 94 points in 57 games.
At the end of the 2002-03 OHL season, Stajan then played one game with the St.Johns Maple Leafs of the AHL before making his NHL debut on April 5 2003 against Ottawa. He would score his first NHL goal that very night. The goal would even elicit a smile from the late Pat Quinn behind the bench, as the young kid from Missassauga began his career with a bang.
Making the Jump
Matt Stajan made the Maple Leafs out of camp in the 2003-04 season and thus his professional career began. In his rookie season, Stajan dressed in 69 games, picking up 14 goals and 13 assists. He was also named to the NHL YoungStars Game, which was part of the All-Star game format at the time. At the event he scored a goal and added an assist for his Eastern Conference team. A few other notable names in that game were Eric Staal, Patrice Bergeron, and former Flame Matt Lombardi.
The Leafs went 45-24-10-3 in the 2003-04 season, making the playoffs and then defeating the Ottawa Senators in Round 1. Toronto then bowed out in Round 2 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Stajan dressed in 3 playoff games and didn’t pick up a point.
It would be the last time Stajan reached the NHL playoffs until the 2014-15 “Find a Way Flames” team did so. Such is the luck of playing in the crapfest that was Toronto and Calgary in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s.
The 2004-05 season went down the tubes thanks to the infamous lockout, so Stajan spent the year in the AHL with the St.Johns Maple Leafs. Stajan dominated at the AHL level, picking up 66 points in 80 games.
Stajan had a fairly consistent run for the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 seasons picking up 27, 39, and 33 points respectively. It had started to look like Stajan wasn’t going to blossom into the top line centre Toronto had hoped for, but he was a pretty solid forward on some bad Toronto teams.
Stajan made a big jump in 2008-09 when he racked up 55 points in 76 games. Things were looking up for him in what ended up being his last full season with Toronto.
After starting off the 2009-10 season with a whopping 41 points in 55 games, the trade happened. It caught everybody off guard and became a part of both Flames and Maple Leaf lore.
Matt Stajan was traded from the Maple Leafs with Ian White, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers. In exchange Calgary sent prized young defender Dion Phaneuf, Frederik Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie the other way in the blockbuster deal.
Stajan made his Calgary Flames debut on February 1st in a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia. He scored his first goal as a Flame two days later in a 4-1 win over Carolina. The goal actualyl ended up being the game winning goal.
Stajan would the year up with 3 goals and 13 assists in 27 games for the Flames, finishing the 2009-10 season with a cumulative total of 19 goals and 38 assists for 57 points. That was and continues to be his career high. The Flames missed the playoffs that year for the first time in six seasons and began a string of five straight misses.
The 2010-11 season would be a tough for both the Flames and Stajan as he’d fall back to only six goals and 31 points as the Flames would miss the playoffs.
During the 2011-12 season Stajan would score the 100th goal of his career. Skip to 0:38 to see it.
Matt Stajan’s 2013-14 season would wind up being his best in a Calgary Flames uniform, but would become known for the tragedy that his family suffered off the ice. Stajan and his wife Katie would lose their son Emerson shortly after birth, reminding us all that there was much more to life than just hockey.
As Stajan took time off to be with his family, his teammates supported him through the darkest of times and Stajan would eventually return which would set the stage for one of the most powerful moments of Flames hockey in memory.
Stajan would get a penalty shot against the Oilers in only his third game back. With a beautiful backhand move he would score, and point to the sky in an emotional moment that brought tears to the eyes of many Flames fans.
He would be mobbed by his teammates when he returned to the bench, and a powerful moment was shared among the team. Stajan would go on to register four points that night in a dominant Flames victory over Edmonton.
In January of 2015, Stajan and his wife Katie hosted A Night Under The Stars in memory of their son and raised over $100,000 for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Foothills Medical Centre. The couple would also welcome their son Elliot in March of 2015.
On the ice, Stajan would put up 17 points during the regular season, and become a part of that special “Find a Way Flames” team that captivated the city, and the entire league. The Flames and Stajan would make their mutual long awaited returns to the playoffs that season.
And it was in the playoffs where Stajan created a moment that would last with Flames fans for many years to come.
Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks, with the Flames leading the series 3-2, after coming back from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits earlier in the game, with the game tied and under five minutes to play, Matt Stajan set the city of Calgary on fire with the biggest goal of his career.
I still get chills to this day watching this goal.
Stajan has spent the last three seasons being a consistent player in the bottom six, and as he reaches 1000 games, he still brings the work ethic he’s brought his whole career. He may lack some of the foot speed of other youngsters, but Matt plays hockey the right way. He sticks up for his teammates, and puts it on the line for them as we saw with his fearless shot block in the dying seconds against Edmonton last week.
More importantly than hockey, Stajan lives life the right way. From the day he entered the league he focused on giving back and being more than just a hockey player. Stajan has worked with the Ronald McDonald House, Alberta Children’s Hospital, and many other charitable ventures during his time in the NHL. He is somebody that we have been extremely lucky to have in Calgary for 8 and a half seasons.
So as you hit this tremendous milestone, I’d just like to say on behalf of Flames fans, Calgarians, and everyone else who you’ve touched in your endeavors, congratulations Matt on 1000 games and thank you for everything you’ve done for our team, our community, and the NHL.