Brent Seabrook doesn’t remember exactly how old he was — 12 or 13, he thinks — but he sure as heck remembers the sight of his hand covered in blood, the result of another player’s skate slicing up his thumb.
Slightly panicked, he showed it to his dad, Gary, one of his coaches.
“We didn’t have doctors like we have here to stitch you up,” Seabrook said. “So he just wrapped hockey tape around it, and I was back out there. I was taught at a young age that you never miss games at all. My dad instilled that in me. He was an old farm boy, so he never missed much time.”
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When Seabrook injured his knee at 8 or 9 and couldn’t push, let alone skate, he still went out there and tried. His dad demanded he try.
More than two decades later, Seabrook is still trying, still pushing through, still out there night in and night out, no matter what he’s dealing with, no matter how his body feels. That’s how you get to 1,000 career regular-season games at just 32 — a milestone Seabrook will hit Thursday night at the United Center, his home rink for all 1,000.
“It’s tough to string games together in this league with injuries,” teammate Patrick Sharp said. “He’s certainly had his fair share of injuries, and often times he plays throughout it and doesn’t let anybody outside this locker room know.”
Seabrook missed 13 games with a sprained knee during his rookie season, 2005-06. In the 12 seasons since, he has missed just 15 games. That includes a healthy scratch this season in Ottawa. He has played all 82 regular-season games five times and 81 two other times. He hasn’t missed more than four games in a season since that rookie year.
Counting the playoffs, he has played in 1,122 games, with as many hard miles on him as anybody in the NHL. During the 2014-15 season, he played all 82 games, then all 23 playoff games, logging 26 minutes a night as the Hawks leaned heavily on their top-four defensemen.
He might not be a physical freak of nature like his buddy Duncan Keith, or as obsessed with his diet and fitness as captain Jonathan Toews, but he’s as durable as they come — tough and obstinate, just like his dad.
“You learn how to deal with your body — you learn how to play through things,” Seabrook said. “I’ve had some things I’ve played through throughout my career, because this is where I want to be. I want to be playing, I want to be helping my team out any way I can.”
The NHL is getting younger and faster every year. Seabrook, like the rest of the Hawks’ vaunted core, isn’t. (Keith is just 10 games away from 1,000, while Toews and winger Patrick Kane will both turn 30 in the coming months.) But after a rough start, Seabrook has quietly put together a solid season, with positive possession numbers and three goals in his last eight games.
Experience and savvy can go a long way toward offsetting youth and speed.
“The older you get and the more you play in certain situations against certain players, you learn tendencies, you learn how to make the game a little easier,” Seabrook said. “The game continues to change with speed, and it’s something we all constantly work at. But I think you can alleviate a lot of that pressure with just being in the right spot, making a good pass, making a good play, and being confident out there.”
The 1,000 milestone will be bittersweet for Seabrook, who’s used to gearing up for a playoff run this time of year. But regardless of what the back nine of his career brings, his legacy is secure. Few players in NHL history can say they accomplished as much — or played as much — in their first 13 seasons.
“It’s a great beginning for him, and he certainly should be proud of his achievement,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “[He’s been] a big part of the success of the franchise. He’s been there every step of the way.”
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