There was no shortage of milestones for the Kings during the 1998-99 season. That season, four Los Angeles players reached 1,000 games, marking the first time in NHL history that four players from the same time accomplished the feat.
Defenseman Doug Bodger was the first through the gate on October 25, 1998, with Garry Galley, Russ Courtnall and Ray Ferraro all reaching the benchmark in February 1999.
Twenty years later, all four reflected on what it meant to play their landmark game and how unique it was that they all achieved it in the same season on the same team.
For all the players, playing in 1,000 NHL games was something they could only dream of.
Doug Bodger: It was something that you really hope you’d get to, but you’re never sure you’d get to it. As the games piled up, you kind of realized it’s a reality, but not a lot of guys get to do that so it’s a big accomplishment. I never thought I’d make it, but as it got closer, I thought I’m going to make it. Barely, but I made it.
Reaching the milestone even more special for Russ was that his brother, Geoff, had already accomplished the feat.
RC: Most exciting thing for myself and my family were that my brother Geoff and I were the first two brothers to play 1,000 games each in the NHL, which is a great trivia question.
Although it was exciting, it created some added pressure for Courtnall.
RC: Twenty games before my 1,000th, the media started talking about how Geoff and I were going to be the first two brothers to make it to 1,000 and it really started affecting me. Larry Robinson said ‘what the hell is wrong with you, you’ve not playing the way you’ve been playing.’ I said, ‘get me to 1,000 and I’ll be fine.’ I broke my ankle and came back and got to 1,000.
Garry Galley: The 1,000th game is kind of a surreal moment. When you start playing, all you ever want to do is play one game. You just want to be in the National Hockey League. You just want to play in that one game to say all your hard work has paid off so you never really think about that 1,000th game. Still is to this day, I’m really just super proud that Geoff and I did that.
Making the game even more significant for Galley, who was back for his second tour of duty with the Kings, was that it was against the Flyers in Philadelphia, where he spent an important stretch of his career.
GG: Felt like my game came full circle in Philadelphia. That’s where I had my best personal years and put up some really good numbers and was playing quite a bit. So I really felt that was a nice place to play my 1,000th game for sure. To be able to play my 1,000th for Los Angeles was very special. I played my first game at the Forum.
For Ray Ferraro, who struggled with knee injuries and staying in the lineup for the first half of the season, reaching the milestone meant even more to him.
Ray Ferraro: I was always proud of my ability to be durable and stay in the lineup and produce. And then I went through a time in LA where I was just getting racked with knee injury after knee injury and I couldn’t stay in the lineup. To get to the 1,000 games, you can see it on the horizon and you know it’s a big number. It did mean a lot to me. I wanted to get there.
Reaching the 1,000-game mark is a demonstration of a player’s endurance and perseverance, but it is also a testament to the support they have had over the years.
GG: It means a lot to you for a number of reasons. Number one, for your family and the people who support support you and for all your teammates you’ve had over the years that helped you along the way. It was an important 1,000 game not just for me. I met my wife in high school and she went through all the ups and downs, so it was 1,000 games for the family. It takes a village, so for all the people who helped me that 1,000th game was a representation of that. I wouldn’t have been there without the important people in my life.
To mark their accomplishments, the Kings gave each player and their family a trip to Hawaii, while the players all contributed to buy each of them a gift. According to Courtnall, captain Rob Blake gave each of them a choice for what they wanted to get.
RC: They presented me with a beautiful gold watch that the players bought. I wanted something I could hand down to my son that meant something.
Galley felt the same way as Courtnall and chose a watch as well.
GG: I wanted to get something that I could have forever and pass on to my kids. Something that, after I’m gone, is reflective of something I’ve accomplished. I was never going to be a guy who scored 500 goals or a guy who would win the Norris. I tried to win the Stanley Cup for 17 years I played, unfortunately never had a chance to get that, but I think for my kids that watch will be a representation of something that was really important to me and something I put a lot of time and effort and blood, sweat and tears into.
When Galley returned home from the game, he had another special gift waiting for him.
GG: I remember coming home from Philadelphia and it was fairly late. I walked into the house trying to be quiet and my wife had got 1,000 roses. There were 1,000 roses in little vases all throughout the house with candles and stuff. I remember walking in and being absolutely blown away. It was such a beautiful looking room. For many, many years we kept the roses and she sprayed them with stuff and put them on top of our kitchen cabinets and she made a wreath out of some of them.
While Courtnall and Galley remember picking what gifts they wanted, Bodger has a different recollection.
DB: They never gave me an option [laughs]. They just gave me some Sea-Doos, which was awesome. I think Russ and Luc were behind that mostly and probably Blakey. Instead of a Rolex, I have a Timex, which keeps the same time so it doesn’t really matter. The Sea-Doos were quite fun and my kids had a blast with them for quite a few years.
Regardless of what they received, they all appreciated the sentiment and generosity from the locker room.
GG: No one blinks, no one says a word. Everybody chips in. That’s what made it special.
And of course, the uniqueness of the situation wasn’t lost on the players.
RC: We each put in a set amount of money and it was kind of funny because the young guys were like ‘another $500?’ Four in the same year!
It was kind of weird because a couple of the guys had just got there and we were all chipping in for gifts, it was pretty funny. For most of the guys they don’t get to the 1,000 games, so there’s no payback down the road. It was kind of a strange circumstance actually.
When NHL players reach the 1,000-game mark they are presented with a silver stick, but that wasn’t always the case back then. Ferraro doesn’t remember anybody receiving a silver stick in 1998-99, but he managed to get his hands on one recently.
A friend of mine, Steve Matthes, he got in contact with the Kings and said ‘do you know that Ray doesn’t have a silver stick?’ And they didn’t know, so the Kings stepped up and got in contact with the guy who does the sticks. So last year I got the 1,000 game stick, which was pretty cool.
While they each have different memories of their 1,000th game, what is the same across the board is how special the achievement still is to them even two decades later.
Although it seemed as though the Kings’ four players reaching the milestone in the same season would have stood the test of the time, just 10 years later, the Anaheim Ducks matched the feat.