One of the most quietly impactful players in Calgary Flames history announced his retirement on Tuesday morning. Former Flames forward Matt Stajan announced through the National Hockey League Players Association that he’s hanging up his skates after 16 professional seasons.
Congratulations to @MattStajan18, who after 1,003 games played in 14 NHL seasons, retires today with a reputation as an effective two-way centreman and quality teammate wherever he went.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) December 3, 2019
Stajan, 35, was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2002 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut on Apr. 5, 2003 after completing his junior season. He went on to play 1,003 NHL games with the Leafs and Flames.
Stajan came to the Flames in the infamous January 2010 swap that sent Dion Phaneuf to Toronto for Stajan and a slew of random dudes. To his credit, Stajan dramatically changed his game during his time in Calgary and became a reliable two-way player who settled into a very useful role on the team’s third and fourth lines. He’s arguably best known to Flames fans for a pair of incredibly emotional goals.
This penalty shot goal in March 2014 came in Stajan’s second game back after the passing of his son Emerson.
One season later, Stajan scored the goal in Game 6 that eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from the playoffs and gave the Flames their first series win since 2004.
More important than his on-ice impacts was his ability to mentor the Flames’ younger players as they transitioned from junior or the minor leagues into certified big league contributors. Stajan had a stall on one side of the Flames locker room, right in the middle, and the coaching staff regularly rotated youngsters in to side alongside Stajan to benefit from his mentorship. Among the players that became full-timers in Calgary during his tenure included Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, TJ Brodie, Joe Colborne, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Josh Jooris, Lance Bouma, Garnet Hathaway, Mark Jankowski and Matthew Tkachuk.
He obviously got slower over time and with the Flames needing to roll four lines that could play with pace, Stajan wasn’t offered a contract after his last deal expired following the 2017-18 season. But his impact will be felt on the franchise for a long time to come.