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'Dedicated' Buchberger Enjoys 1,000th Game

January 08, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kelly Buchberger was in his usual spot two hours before Monday night's game, sitting astride an exercise bike.

It was a special night for Buchberger, who was about to play in his 1,000th NHL game, but the Kings' oldest and toughest player wasn't about to break his pregame routine, even as a small group of reporters stopped to interview him.

"I've loved this game since the day I started playing when I was 3," he said, explaining his longevity. "My love and desire to play every night is still there. You have to be really dedicated to the game to play as long as I have."

Buchberger, 35, played his first regular-season game for the Edmonton Oilers in the 1987-88 season, but he made his NHL debut in the 1987 Stanley Cup finals, helping the Oilers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers.

Claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 expansion draft, he was traded on March 13, 2000, to the Kings, who wanted his veteran leadership.

He has given them that and more, having played in 220 consecutive games.

"He's a quiet leader," Coach Andy Murray said.

"The other guys watch him practice every day and play injured and banged up. You don't play 1,000 games in this league in the role that he plays unless you're the ultimate competitor because that job is the toughest job in hockey.

"There are very few tough guys like Kelly Buchberger that play 1,000 games. That's a testament to him. He's fought all the battles."

After practicing this morning in Montclair, N.J., the Kings will bus into Manhattan to visit the site of the World Trade Center disaster.

"Certainly, with the situation involving Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey, there's special meaning for us going to ground zero," Murray said, referring to the King scouts killed when their hijacked flight was crashed into the center.

"We felt it like all of America and all of the world did on that tragic day, but certainly with a couple key members of our staff being involved, it's going to be a special moment when we visit."

Jerry Crowe

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