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Lightning’s Victor Hedman plays 1,000th NHL game, joins elite company

Photo gallery | The franchise cornerstone becomes the first defenseman in team history to reach the longevity milestone.
 
Victor Hedman, along with his family, is presented with a silver stick by owner Jeff Vinik Monday at Amalie Arena after becoming  the first Lightning defenseman and only the third player in franchise history to play in 1,000 career games.
Victor Hedman, along with his family, is presented with a silver stick by owner Jeff Vinik Monday at Amalie Arena after becoming the first Lightning defenseman and only the third player in franchise history to play in 1,000 career games. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Dec. 5, 2023|Updated Dec. 5, 2023

TAMPA — Time has flown by for Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.

He remembers well the details of draft day in 2009 in Montreal, and his family being there when Tampa Bay selected him second overall. The franchise planned to team him with center Steven Stamkos, the top overall pick in the previous draft, as the building blocks of its future.

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman waves to the fans as he becomes the 79th player in league history to play in 1,000 games for a single franchise at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Tampa.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman waves to the fans as he becomes the 79th player in league history to play in 1,000 games for a single franchise at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Now in his 15th NHL season, Hedman has accomplished more than most. He has lifted the Stanley Cup twice, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s top performer in 2020, as well as a Norris Trophy in 2018 as the league’s top defenseman. His 677 career points are fourth-most among active defensemen.

Hedman takes to the ice for warmups at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Tampa.
Hedman takes to the ice for warmups at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

On Monday, he reached a milestone that’s a testament to his productivity and longevity. as he played his 1,000th career NHL game. He became the first Lightning defenseman and third player in franchise history to reach that mark, joining Vincent Lecavalier (1,037) and Stamkos (1,027).

Hedman, along with his family, as he presented with a silver stick by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as Hedman becomes the 79th player in league history to play in 1,000 games for a single franchise.
Hedman, along with his family, as he presented with a silver stick by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as Hedman becomes the 79th player in league history to play in 1,000 games for a single franchise. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Hedman, 32, is the seventh Swedish defenseman to reach the milestone. The only two to do so and have as many career points as Hedman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Borje Salming, are both in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hedman likely will join them one day.

Hedman greets his team in the tunnel before warmups. The entire team wore the number 77 on their jersey with the number 1000 and Hedman’s name on the back.
Hedman greets his team in the tunnel before warmups. The entire team wore the number 77 on their jersey with the number 1000 and Hedman’s name on the back. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

He was honored with a pregame ceremony before Monday’s game against Dallas at Amalie Arena, presented with a silver stick. All of the family members who were there 15 years ago on draft day — parents Olle and Elizabeth, brothers Oscar and Johan, and wife (then-girlfriend) Sanna — were there to celebrate the moment. His two young sons, Rio and Viggo, were recent additions.

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Hedman says hello to his wife and two sons through the glass during warmups. His family joined him on the ice as he was honored with a pregame ceremony before the game.
Hedman says hello to his wife and two sons through the glass during warmups. His family joined him on the ice as he was honored with a pregame ceremony before the game. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Hedman’s teammates took the ice for the pregame skate wearing jerseys with his name on the back, his No. 77 on the shoulders and the No. 1,000 on the back. A video montage was narrated by Stamkos, and former teammates Ondrej Palat, Pat Maroon, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn offered their congratulations in a video compilation.

Hedman’s image appears on the center ice display during the ceremony to honor him before the game.
Hedman’s image appears on the center ice display during the ceremony to honor him before the game. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“You don’t take anything for granted in this league,” Hedman said before the game. “It was kind of a rough start to my career, there were lots of ups and downs. But I found my way, and here we are today. So I’m going to embrace this whole day, treat it like a normal game day during the day, but then tonight it’s going to be very, very special with all my family and friends in town for tonight. So, it’s going to be a blast.”

Hedman takes to the ice for warmups.
Hedman takes to the ice for warmups. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]