It was Oct. 2, 1999.
That night in Philadelphia, Simon Gagne made his rookie debut with the Flyers against the Ottawa Senators, centering Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg.
He played 16:40 without a shot during a 2-0 Flyers loss.
Four games later, Gagne scored his first NHL points – two goals on three shots during a 5-4 loss in Washington while playing just 12:50 and centering Mark Greig and Recchi.
You never forget your first goal in the league.
“Maybe my first point was my goal?” Gagne asked.
“I know I scored against Washington. [Olaf] Kolzig was in net. I got two goals that night. I still have the puck. And still look at that puck once in a while.”
Twelve years and one Stanley Cup with the L.A. Kings later, Gagne is approaching an NHL milestone with just two games left in the regular season – 600 career points. He needs four points against the Islanders and Senators to achieve it. Gagne has 534 points as a Flyer.
“It would be nice,” he said. “Be nice to do it this year here. It’s all about finishing strong as a team player, too. It’s up for grabs. If not this year, then next.”
Now 33, Gagne admits the thought of scoring 600 points never occurred to him that rookie year playing for Roger Neilson.
“No, no, in my mind, I remember growing up and drafted, even if I were a first rounder, it was hard to imagine myself playing with all those good players,” Gagne said. “My goal was to make team be in and out and play a fourth line and get minutes. Not play on first line and or get to play with so many quality players. Even from my first year to now, I was lucky to have a chance to do that. Hopefully, I can do it a few more years.”
He would become a fixture on the Flyers for a decade. And he played with some quality people, not just players.
Recchi. Eric Lindros. Craig Berube. Luke Richardson. Eric Desjardins. Chris Therien. Marc Bureau.
“Big E [Lindros] got hurt that first year,” Gagne said. “Before that happened, he taught me a couple things. How to protect myself and make sure guys respected me on the ice. That is the thing I remember most from him. Eric Desjardins was my roommate on the road. Coming here and not speaking English, he helped me. Marc Bureau and Mark Recchi. I had so many good [players] to help me off the ice and make sure I took the right first steps to the NHL, make sure I was comfortable and where to go and what I had to do to be a good hockey player and how to act off the ice. I had good teachers here.”
Which is why Gagne would love to see himself get his 600th point as a Flyer.
“That would be special,” he said.
There are no guarantees he will be re-signed next season. His current salary of $3.5 million would likely have to be almost halved for the Flyers to bring him back.
While he says he would like to finish his career as a Flyer, and that settling back to where it all began is more important to him, sometimes, things change.
Remember, Jaromir Jagr said last season the Flyers were the best team for him at that point in his career and he ended up going to Dallas in free agency.
“I’m at the end of my career and just want to be at a place where I am comfortable,” Gagne said.
Four points is a lot to get in two games. He could have made things easier on himself in Carolina last weekend.
Gagne had 10 attempts on goal and two perfect setups from Claude Giroux during the Flyers' 5-3 victory over the Hurricanes last weekend.
“Yeah, the chances were there,” he said. “It’s a good sign. If you don’t have scoring chances or get shots on net you are not doing things offensively. G gave me two passes for a one timer and I missed the net. After that, I had a breakaway. That one in front of the net, I tried to make a move and that didn’t work. It’s coming. It’s all about timing. I didn’t play much last year and didn’t play much until coming here this year, either.”
He still has a hard time rationalizing how the Flyers won’t be in the playoffs.
“I’ve been in the league for a long time, and I was here last time the team didn’t make the playoffs [in 2007],” Gagne said. “I remember it was a little bit of a different situation at that time because we were dead last at the time, but it was all about preparing the team for next year.
“It’s different this year since we’re closer to the eighth seed. I think we’re going to [come up] really short at the end, but that’s what happens with a lockout season like we went through.”
Gagne has five goals and 10 points with the Flyers.
Yet the final four points could be his toughest to get.
Flyers morning skate was optional … Ilya Bryzgalov, who did not skate, will be in goal tonight against the Islanders … Defenseman Kent Huskins says he is feeling good and would like to get back in the lineup before the season ends. However, it appeared, based on extra practice today, he will not play tonight. “Players want to play,” Huskins said. “That’s the bottom line. You understand there are a lot of deserving guys here who have worked hard. You got to kind of live with whatever decision is made.”