WASHINGTON – Scott Hannan had to adapt to make it to the impressive milestone of 1000 NHL games, which he reached on Tuesday night against the Capitals.
The 35-year-old entered the NHL in 1998, smack in the middle of an era when clutching and grabbing the opponent was a necessity in defending.
The league clamped down on that style of play after the lost season of 2004-05, with the goal of increasing offense.
“When those things change, you kind of had to change with it,” Hannan said on Tuesday morning in Washington. “You work on things in the offseason – speed, foot speed, anything you can to stay in the game. And that gets harder as you get older.
“Everybody keeps pushing, there’s all these guys coming up and you’ve got to find ways to make yourself important to the team. I think I’ve been able to accomplish that, and it’s nice.”
Originally drafted by the Sharks in the first round of the 1997 draft, Hannan returned to the team in a trade with Nashville during the shortened 2013 season. He returned on a pair of one-year deals as an unrestricted free agent.
“When I got traded back here a few years ago, I was shocked, but it feels right to be in this position where I started my career,” Hannan said. “To be able to finish it with a team like this, the great guys in this room, it feels right.”
Despite being labeled as a spare, seventh defenseman when he re-signed again in July, Hannan has played in each of the Sharks’ first three games. He got in ahead of Matt Irwin for the first two, and when it was time for Irwin to play against the Capitals, it was rookie Mirco Mueller who sat rather than Hannan.
Coach Todd McLellan had nothing but good things to say about the veteran on Tuesday morning.
“When I was told we acquired Scott Hannan, my expectations were we were getting a veteran player that could come in and be an extra piece and maybe lead,” McLellan said. “He’s done all of those things, but a lot more, too. I think we’ve received or acquired a player that has produced more than I thought he would.”
Part of Hannan's job now is to help mentor what is a generally young Sharks blue line corps, as he is the only member of that group over the age of 30.
What can he pass on to those guys, who will still be playing long after he hangs up his skates?
“It’s just every day, coming to the rink, the work you have to put in,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of it. You don’t always appreciate that when you’re young.”
Hannan will be honored at the Sharks’ home game on Nov. 1. He is the 291st player in NHL history to play in 1000 games, and just the 97th defenseman.
He’s played in Colorado, Washington, Calgary and Nashville between his two stints with the Sharks, and is the sixth member of the 1997 draft class to reach 1000 games, along with teammates Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.