Steve Staios figured the time was right last August. He was relaxing with his family on the porch of his cottage, uncorked an expensive bottle of wine and called his agent.
"Can you get yourself a glass of wine?" Staios asked his representative, Pat Morris. "I want to make a toast. I'm going to retire.
"Free agency had started and there was some interest. But as we got into August, I started to sit back and reflect. I realized I had a great career and maybe it was time for me to retire and move on to something else, time to move onto the next phase in my life.
"Like a good agent, Pat just listened. Then he told me 'you should be very proud of yourself, what you've done, how you've accomplished it and the fact that you're well respected around the league.' Then came the big but. He told me, `I still have some loose ends to tie up, let me get back to you [before officially retiring].' It seems like that conversation was a long time ago."
A few weeks later Morris travelled to Long Island to work out a new contract for New York Islanders centre Josh Bailey. The agent asked the Islanders if they had interest in the 38-year-old Staios, a veteran who could provide some leadership for the young team.
They were interested. Islanders coach Jack Capuano called Staios and told him that he was excited about the possibility of Staios playing in New York. There were no promises made, but the Islanders did offer the native of Hamilton, Ont. an invite to training camp on a tryout basis.
Staios made the team and six months later he will play in career game No. 1,000 later this week. It was 16 years ago Staios played his first NHL game for the Boston Bruins against the Ottawa Senators on Mar. 21, 1996.
"After having a stable career in Edmonton for all those years, it was rewarding to fight for a spot and make a team. This entire season has been a great experience for me," Staios said. "I just felt comfortable right away. I knew I could help. Once I got on the ice I still knew I had plenty of hockey in me."
The Islanders played Staios in almost every pre-season game and he passed the test. They offered the veteran defenceman a one-year contract a few days before camp ended.
"A big part of this story was the commitment from my family," Staios said. "We were going back to Edmonton to get life started with a transition year."
But when the Islanders offered Staios a contact, he called his wife Susannah, son Nathan, 10, and daughter Ella, eight, to see if they had interest in moving to New York. Of course, they did.
Now Staios has been contemplating another season with the Islanders, but won't make that decision until the summer. He never has been one to look ahead nor too far back. That's why these past few days have been different with his milestone game approaching.
"I've been able to have a successful career by staying in the moment, he said. "But as this milestone has approached I have been flooded by emotions. You look back and reflect at a number of games, key playoff games, something a coach once said that really helped me out or a teammate I enjoyed playing with.
"It's hard just to pick one thing. Of course, when you have an opportunity to play in a Stanley Cup Final and in a game 7 of a final [with the Oilers in 2005-06], that was a life-changing experience. To get so close is something you live with the rest of your life. That team was so close. We had so much fun and we had so much chemistry."
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