Tue Feb 01 05:36pm EST
Chances are most fans don't know Andrew Brunette's(notes) career stats. They've never purposefully selected him in a fantasy draft. If asked about his sweater number, they'd mumble "20-something-or-other" when in fact he's rocking the 1-5.
Brunette's 250 goals and 0.69 career-points-per-game average in a League he's been kicking around since 1995 -- playing for the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild -- are respectable numbers for a rink rat.
But "unsung" is too often confused with "underappreciated." His abilities as an NHL veteran are overlooked as his contributions as a member of the Minnesota Wild are not. Bryan from Hockey Wilderness gives a sense of that affection:
So forgive me if I tell you that Andrew Brunette is my favorite Wild player. The guy comes out every game, every practice and works so hard that it can't help but translate to those around him. As Russo points out in his piece on Bruno today, and as every coach and fan to ever watch Bruno play has noted: the guy is not very fast. Yet, there is no one who doesn't like the guy. Including me.
Barring some kind of pregame calamity, Brunette will play in his 1,000th game tonight as the Wild host the Los Angeles Kings. And for all the unsung pluggers loved by local fans, it's a time to celebrate.
Andrew Brunette will become the 261st player to skate in his 1,000th game and second in a Wild sweater (Keith Carney(notes)). The underrated 37-year-old winger has scored 250 goals and 688 points in 999 games.
Since 1998-99, he has played in more games than any NHL player (937), having missed just three games since the start of the 2001-02 campaign. He had his 509-game Iron Man streak snapped a few years ago because he had the nerve to miss two games with a torn ACL, a torn ACL he played on for the REST OF THE YEAR! Those were the only two games he missed since Dec. 31, 2001.
Russo also has a great feature on the man they call 'Bruno' today, in which he asks the 37-year-old Wild winger about success in a professional hockey league without an exceptional skating ability:
"Because I don't find the games fast. I think I saw the game probably differently than other guys. I thought fast and had a belief in what I did in certain areas," Brunette said, referring to around, behind and in front of the net. "If I got the puck in certain areas, I felt I was as good as anybody. So I never doubted myself despite the skating. And I was strong-minded over it because it's easy to crack."
You can see that in the following tribute video from the Wild that counts down his top 10 moments and more:
You'll notice the last clip was from April 2003: Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche, when Brunette's overtime goal gave the franchise its first playoff series victory. What it doesn't tell you is that Brunette had a point on all three goals in the-3-2 victory, one of four multi-goal games he had in that run to the conference finals.
But that's what these unsung pluggers do: Work their asses off, score big goals, sign their next contract, do it again, either with that team or another team. Every franchise has one or two every generation. For Minnesota Wild fans, tonight's a night to celebrate one of theirs.
He's not Gaborik. He's not Koivu. He was never meant to be. But 1,000 games for Andrew Brunette is 1,000 more than a lot of other seventh-round draft picks have dreamed of playing; and few have ever made the impact he's made on those who've watched him.